The Cubs made two big announcements on Sunday morning prior to the split squad games against the Angels and the Brewers. Shortly after the news hit the wire that Matt Garza had been shut down and will begin the season on the disabled list, Dale Sveum officially named Jeff Samardzija his Opening Day starter.
The Cubs have just under a month remaining in the exhibition season, but as long as the Cubs do not have any other injuries to the starting pitchers, the team will begin the year with Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood, and Carlos Villanueva in the rotation.
Matt Garza, Scott Baker and the Cubs Pitching Staff
With Matt Garza and Scott Baker beginning the year on the disabled list, not only is the Cubs’ rotation set for the start of the season, but the Cubs have one more spot in the bullpen up for grabs.
As long as the Cubs do not have any more injuries this spring, the team will begin the year with Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva, and Travis Wood as the starting five. The Cubs figure to carry a 12-man staff, or a seven-man bullpen … the Cubs have only two days off in April.
As long as Carlos Marmol remains on the roster, the backend of the bullpen will consist of Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, Shawn Camp, and James Russell. That leaves three spots in the pen. Hector Rondon has been pretty impressive in his first three appearances, so the Rule 5 draftee should fill one spot if he can keep it up with Michael Bowden a favorite for the second. Bowden has not done anything to lose his job, and would give Dale Sveum a pitcher that can throw multiple innings in relief.
The injury to Garza, likely opens a spot for either Hisanori Takahashi or Chris Rusin. The Cubs could use another lefty in the pen to go along with James Russell to start the season. Rusin is on the 40-man roster, which gives him an edge, but he figures to benefit from beginning the year with Iowa as part of the Triple-A rotation. The Cubs would have to open a spot on the 40-man for Takahashi, and that could be an issue … the Cubs’ 40-man roster currently sits at 40 players.
The Cubs will likely use the spot created by placing Arodys Vizcaino on the 60-day DL to add Brent Lillibridge to the roster. While it is still early, Takahashi has thrown the ball well over three outings, plus lefties have managed just a .238/.283/.381/.664 line against Takahashi in 369 plate appearances.
According to a report from Bruce Levine, Ian Stewart tried hitting in the cage on Saturday. Stewart told Levine his injury is frustrating because he did so much work in the off-season to be prepared this spring.
Stewart told the Tribune that he has no timetable on his return, but he is satisfied with the progress he’s mad rehabbing his quad injury. Stewart is confident the Cubs will keep him after the conversations he had with the front office before he re-signed, and he thinks he will be a part of the team on April 1 or later.
The Cubs have talked to Stewart about picking up at bats in minor league games once he is healthy enough to play this spring. The Cubs would like to see him get 70 at bats during Spring Training.
Cubs News Bits
Starlin Castro downplayed his injury once again on Sunday to the point where he said if it was the regular season he would not have missed any time.
Steve Clevenger took grounders at second base on Sunday. The converted infielder is expected to see time at first base, catcher, third base, second base and in the outfield in the coming weeks.
The Cubs are seeing the big picture come into focus according to Patrick Mooney.
FanGraphs took a look at the Cubs’ rotation depth last week.