Catching Up with the Cubs on a Break from the Cactus League

The Cubs take a break from their Cactus League schedule Wednesday and while they might not be playing an exhibition game, it is far from a day off for the team.

The Cubs announced another spring roster cut prior to Tuesday’s split squad games. Lefty Chris Rusin, who received a non-roster invitation to camp, was assigned to minor league camp which reduced the Cubs spring roster to 48 players, 33 on the 40-man roster and 15 non-roster invitees. The Cubs are expected to announce the sixth round of roster spring roster cuts Thursday.

The Cubs could have named their Opening Day starter Tuesday without saying a word. When camp began, it was reported that if Matt Garza started in a ‘B’ game or a minor league game on the Cubs’ only off day in the Cactus League, then he would be in line to start the first game of the season. The Cubs announced Tuesday that Matt Garza will start the exhibition game against the Rangers on Thursday and Paul Maholm would make a start Wednesday in a minor league game. Unless the Cubs alter Garza’s schedule, which is not expected, Ryan Dempster will start his second straight Opening Day.

Here’s the update …

Carlos Marmol
Carlos Marmol gave Dale Sveum and the coaching staff a mild scare Tuesday when he started shaking his hand prior after throwing a pitch to Mike Olt. Marmol’s right hand cramped up and neither Marmol nor the Cubs are concerned. Marmol was expected to undergo an MRI for precautionary reasons.

The Opening Day Bench
The Cubs could officially name their Opening Day roster within a week and while the announcement has not been made, it appears to all but be set … at least for the 13 position players.

According to multiple reports, as it looks now the Cubs’ bench will consist of Joe Mather, Reed Johnson, Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker and either Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger.

Blake DeWitt’s name has surfaced in trade rumors and that would obviously change things.

If the Cubs decide to have both Blake DeWitt and Joe Mather on the Opening Day roster, they will have to create two spots on the 40-man roster first. DeWitt and Mather received non-roster invites to camp and neither one are on the big league roster. According to ESPN Chicago, if the Cubs deal DeWitt than either Adrian Cardenas or Alfredo Amezaga (Amezaga is not on the big league roster either) could begin the season as the Cubs backup middle infielder.

Dale Sveum said Monday that by next Monday or Tuesday they will probably have everything done and the players will know where they are going to start the season. The back-up catcher position might be the only spot that drags out to the end of Spring Training.

Chattin’ with Bruce Levine
Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat on ESPN Chicago. Here are the highlights:

  • Teams like the Phillies should be contacting the Cubs about Blake DeWitt. Levine thinks DeWitt has more value to the Cubs than the marginal prospect they would likely receive for him. Joe Mather is certainly capable of being a good backup and might allow the Cubs to explore trading DeWitt or Jeff Baker to Philadelphia.
  • Levine does not think Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are concerned about Bryan LaHair’s struggles this spring. They are more concerned with the quality of LaHair’s at bats rather than the results.
  • The Cubs have talked about trading Marlon Byrd to make room for Brett Jackson and according to Levine that could happen at some point but not necessarily for the beginning of the year. They would like for Brett Jackson to play a few months in Triple-A and they are not looking to start his arbitration clock.
  • Levine has not heard any updates on how the process is moving along on Jorge Soler (note: as of this writing, Soler has not established residency in the Dominican Republic).
  • Levine is trying to find out whether the front office is working on a long-term deal with Matt Garza or not. When Levine asked Theo Epstein about it, he politely told Levine that they would be keeping that information in house.
  • Levine this Jeff Samardzija will be in the rotation … and they will make Randy Wells available to other teams.
  • Dale Sveum and the coaching staff really like Rodrigo Lopez.

News and Notes

Ian Stewart’s wrist may never be 100 percent but according to a report from Cubs.com, the good news is that it hasn’t slowed the Cubs third baseman down.

Paul Maholm pretty much locked up the third spot in the Cubs rotation Tuesday with the endorsement he received from his manager. With Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm the top three and Jeff Samardzija expected to be the fourth, the fifth spot in the rotation appears to be down to Chris Volstad, Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez … and Randy Wells looks destined for a bullpen role according to ESPN Chicago.

The Cubs’ pitching staff has hit 18 batters this spring, twice as many as the next NL staff.

Dale Sveum really likes Jeff Baker.

Jay Jackson could end up as the long man in the Cubs’ pen according to ESPN Chicago … and Jeff Samardzija making the rotation increases Jackson’s chances. Jay Jackson received a non-roster invite to camp and is not on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.

Quote of the Day
Travis Wood from Cubs.com: “You get traded for a guy like Sean Marshall, who’s an outstanding pitcher, and you want to come over here and show what you can do and I haven’t been. It’s all going to work out. I’m going to get it together and get after it.

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

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Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe