Sveum Announces Spring Starters … and Other Notes from Cubs Camp

Dale Sveum announced Monday that Rodrigo Lopez will take the ball in the Cubs’ spring opener Sunday against the Oakland Athletics at HoHoKam Park. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza will follow Lopez in the rotation and by pitching Dempster in the second game and Garza in the third both pitchers will be in line to face the Nationals on Opening Day.

The Cubs received a scare Monday when Kerry Wood hit Starlin Castro near his wrist in batting practice. Castro was not hurt and did not receive X-rays.

The bunting tournament resumed Monday and the first round is all but complete … and Dale Sveum edged out Kerry Wood to advance into the second round.

The Cubs time at Fitch Park this spring is almost over. After Thursday’s workout, Dale Sveum and company move down the street to HoHoKam Park. The first pitch of the Cubs 2012 Cactus League schedule is just around the corner.

Day nine of Cubs Camp is in the books, here is the update …

Cactus League Rotation
Dale Sveum announced Monday that Rodrigo Lopez will start the spring opener Sunday against Oakland. Ryan Dempster (A’s, March 5) and Matt Garza (Rockies, March 6) will follow for their first starts of the exhibition season.

Sveum said do not read too much into Dempster making his first start before Garza. The Cubs have not decided whether Dempster or Garza will face the Nationals on Opening Day (April 5) and by starting Dempster in game two and Garza the following day, both pitchers would be in line to start Opening Day.

The Cubs only off day this spring is on March 21. If Garza stays on his regular rest and pitches in minor league camp that day he would be in line to start on Opening Day … if the Cubs decided to push all of their starters back a day with the off day on March 21 then Dempster would be in line to start the first game of the regular season.

Starlin Castro
The Cubs received a big scare Monday when Kerry Wood plunked Starlin Castro in the wrist with a fastball. Castro was fine and ended up finishing his BP … and even hit one off Carlos Marmol that ended up hitting off the wall in right field.

Wood’s fastball left a mark and he checked on Castro immediately. Castro said he was okay after practice and there were not any X-Rays taken.

Dale Sveum has been working with Castro on the shortstop’s defense … and the two are forming a bond rather quickly.

The Bunting Tournament
Round one of the Cubs’ bunting tournament all but came to an end Monday … the first round match-up between Rodrigo Lopez and Paul Maholm was postponed because Maholm is still under the weather.

The first round concluded with Dale Sveum edging out Kerry Wood.

Carlos Marmol, Ryan Dempster, Dale Sveum, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker, David DeJesus and Marlon Byrd advanced while Matt Garza, Trever Miller, Kerry Wood, Blake DeWitt, Alfredo Amezaga, Reed Johnson and Alfonso Soriano were eliminated.

The second round match-ups will be as followed:

Pitchers: Jeff Beliveau vs. Lendy Castillo; Trey McNutt vs. Rafael Dolis; Dae-Eun Rhee vs. Chris Rusin; Scott Maine vs. Casey Coleman; Travis Wood vs. Jeff Samardzija; Randy Wells vs. Andy Sonnanstine; Carlos Marmol vs. winner of Lopez-Maholm; Ryan Dempster vs. Dale Sveum

Position players: Matt Szczur vs. Adrian Cardenas; Jonathan Mota vs. Blake Lalli; Brett Jackson vs. Welington Castillo; Steve Clevenger vs. Bryan LaHair; Joe Mather vs. Darwin Barney; Starlin Castro vs. Ian Stewart; Geovany Soto vs. Jeff Baker; Marlon Byrd vs. David DeJesus

The tournament has been very competitive. Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano were taunting and talking trash during their matchups against Matt Garza (Marmol) and David DeJesus (Soriano). Several players took note as to how Sveum competed during his match-up against Wood and liked what their manager brought to the table.

Dale Sveum from the Sun-Times on the tournament, “It’s a fact that this tournament shows you guys that like to compete. You get a feeling of the guys bearing down and competing and some guys that aren’t competing as well. You get to know somebody a little bit through this tournament.

Notes from Cubs Camp

  • The Cubs are preaching fundamentals according to Comcast SportsNet … and according to David Kaplan Dale Sveum is focused on fundamentals.
  • According to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Cubs look serious about improving their defense.
  • Paul Maholm threw his side session on Monday before being sent home. Maholm is still dealing with the flu and is not 100 percent yet.
  • Dale Sveum gets to the park very early.
  • Jeff Beliveau is hoping to make the Cubs take notice.
  • Geovany Soto participated in the bunt tournament Monday but did not practice. Soto is still dealing with a groin injury and is listed as day-to-day. Micah Gibbs was called up (for the day) to fill in for Soto. Sveum alluded over the weekend that Soto could miss time when the exhibition season begins.
  • Anthony Rizzo created a buzz Monday when he launched several bombs over the fence off Rick Sutcliffe. Several of the homers ended up on the street (for those that have not been to Fitch Park that is long way from home plate) and one ended up sailing over the batter’s eye in center and traveled more than 450 feet.
  • Brett Jackson joined in on the home run derby off Rick Sutcliffe.
  • Monday was photo day for the team. The Cubs dressed in their home whites … but it was a photo taken of Jeff Samardzija that caught everyone’s attention. Click here for Samardzija’s pose.
  • Tim Sheridan posted photos from Monday … and was on hand for the Anthony RizzoBrett Jackson homer contest.

News and Notes

  • Bryan LaHair won the Central Iowa Sports Award for the best pro athlete of 2011.
  • Sean Marshall signed a three-year extension with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday. Marshall will be paid $16.5 million and the contract includes incentive packages for each season worth $2 million. The incentives are based on games finished … and games started.
  • For those looking for a Starlin Castro bobblehead or a Ron Santo Hall of Fame plaque, the Cubs released their promotional schedule for home games.

Theo Epstein
The Boston Globe ran an article at the end of last week that is really a must read … Epstein relishes challenge in Chicago. It is a rather lengthy article but well worth the time.

Quote of the Day
From the Tribune: Jeff Baker noted the difference in camp under Dale Sveum, who he said is more “hands on” than his predecessors. “You’re doing it right from the get-go, and you’re getting ‘coached up’ if you don’t do it right. Obviously we’re not going to sit back and wait for the three-run home run. We’re going to run the bases right, bunt, play hard and aggressive. I think it’s one of those things that’s going to stay for 162 (games) and not just for spring training and then kind of die off and go back to hitting homers.”

Well, there’s the update … and I’m sticking to it.

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Quote of the Day

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