Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Royals – 03/07/12

Spring Training Game Four: Cubs (1-2) vs. Royals (3-1)
Game Time – 2:05pm CST
Coverage – TV: None – Radio: 720 WGN
Location – Surprise Stadium, Surprise

Jeff Samardzija (0-0, -.–/-.–) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (0-0, -.–/-.–)

Dale Sveum and the Cubs will play their first game of the spring today outside of the Mesa city limits. After two intrasquad games, two against the Oakland A’s and one against the Rockies at HoHoKam Park, the Cubs will hit the ‘road‘ for the first time this afternoon.

The Cubs posted their first ‘win‘ of the spring Tuesday and will shoot for the second behind Jeff Samardzija.

Samardzija has had a very good camp and is competing for a spot in the rotation with Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Casey Coleman, Andy Sonnanstine and Rodrigo Lopez. Theo Epstein recently said how Samardzija performs this spring will determine where he pitches this season … either the rotation or bullpen.

Samardzija has not made it a secret that he wants to be a starting pitcher. Today is his first shot against actual competition to prove he is ready.

Today’s exhibition game all starts with Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija is coming off his best season at the Major League level … and arguably of his career. Samardzija posted an 8-4 record last year with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. In 75 games, all out of the pen, Samardzija pitched 88 innings and struck out 87 while walking 50 and surrendering 64 hits.

Samardzija seemed to put it all together after the break and posted a 3-0 record with a 2.23 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 36 games (36 1/3 innings).

The previous regime gave Samardzija a lot of money because they believed in his potential. It seems his career is at a crossroads. But if Samardzija could turn into the pitcher the Cubs thought they were drafting, the new regime could have a nice piece of the puzzle in place moving forward.

Wednesday’s Starting Lineup:
Dave Sappelt – CF
Reed Johnson – LF
Starlin Castro – SS
Bryan LaHair – 1B
Jae-Hoon Ha – DH
Darwin Barney – 2B
Matt Tolbert – 3B
Steve Clevenger – C
Joe Mather – RF

The Royals acquired Jonathan Sanchez from the Giants for Melky Cabrera over the off-season in hopes of strengthening their rotation. The Royals have a very talented, young team that many feel is on the verge of becoming a powerhouse in the AL Central. If Sanchez can pitch the way the Giants hoped, the Royals could have added a very good arm to their rotation.

Sanchez started just 19 games last year for San Francisco due to injury. The southpaw was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.

Cubs News and Notes
The bunting tournament is down to the ‘Elite 8‘ after Paul Maholm (beat Dale Sveum), David DeJesus (beat Jeff Baker), Randy Wells (beat Jeff Samardzija) and Starlin Castro (beat Joe Mather) advanced Tuesday.

The next round match-ups are: Jeff Beliveau vs. Casey Coleman; Randy Wells vs. Paul Maholm; Adrian Cardenas vs. Welington Castillo; Starlin Castro vs. David DeJesus

Geovany Soto returned to full activities on Tuesday and could be in the Cubs’ starting lineup Saturday when the Cubs take on the Brewers in Maryvale.

Jason Jaramillo, who was the favorite to be Soto’s backup when camp started, has been slowed with a quad injury. There are doubts that Jaramillo will recover in time to fully compete with Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger for the back-up job.

Dale Sveum said Tuesday that when the season starts Brett Jackson will play every day for either the Chicago Cubs or the Iowa Cubs. He will not sit on a bench and be a fourth or fifth outfielder at the big league level.

Dale Sveum likes what could be his bench when the season beginsReed Johnson, Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt. DeWitt is currently not on the 40-man roster. If those three spots are filled, there would be only two open spots. The back-up catcher (either Castillo, Clevenger or Jaramillo) and another outfield position which could be filled by Tony Campana, Dave Sappelt or Joe Mather. Mather is not on the Cubs’ 40-man roster and with only one spot open (40-man currently has 39 players on it), the Cubs would have to open a spot to add both DeWitt and Mather.

According to Baseball America, the Cubs released RHP Kyle Smit. The Cubs acquired Smit along with Blake DeWitt and Brett Wallach in 2010 in the Ted LillyRyan Theriot trade with Dodgers.

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