A day after multiple reports suggested that Ian Stewart would not be able to make his Cactus League debut for another week, the team announced that Stewart would make his spring debut on Thursday against the Dodgers in Glendale. Stewart is not expected to start. Dale Sveum acknowledged this would give Stewart plenty of time to make the team. Stewart will not be judged by his numbers but by the quality of his at bats.
Gordon Wittenmyer joined Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie during the broadcast of Monday’s game on Cubs.com. Wittenmyer confirmed Sunday’s report from the Tribune that Stewart could begin the season on the disabled list if he is not healthy enough to start the year as the Cubs’ third baseman. Wittenmyer also said that another option would be to keep Stewart in Arizona for Extended Spring Training in order to give him more time to rehab if he is not ready to go when the season begins.
According to Bruce Levine, releasing Stewart does not seem plausible at this point. Levine reported that Stewart has a minor league option left.
From the various reports over the last two days, it does not appear that the front office is contemplating releasing Ian Stewart before Opening Day.
Jeff Samardzija admitted that results were not what he wanted but said that Monday was a big turning point for him. Samardzija told the media he is still making adjustments.
Samardzija has three or four spring starts remaining and does not plan on showing much against the Rangers or Brewers, both teams he will face early in the regular season.
Spring Training Roster
The Cubs cut six players from their Spring Training Roster on Monday three days after the first round of roster cuts was announced. The Cubs’ spring roster officially stands at 53 players with more cuts expected over the next week.
The Cubs optioned Matt Szczur to Double-A Tennessee on Friday and re-assigned Michael Brenly and RHP Dayan Diaz to minor league camp. On Monday, the Cubs optioned Logan Watkins, Alberto Cabrera, Trey McNutt, and Brooks Raley to Triple-A Iowa. Rob Whitenack was optioned to Double-A Tennessee and Nick Struck was re-assigned to minor league camp.
The six players on the Cubs’ 40-man roster (Szczur, Watkins, McNutt, Cabrera, Raley and Whitenack) will spend the year in the minors on an optional assignment, which means the Cubs used one of each of the player’s options for the season. Logan Watkins and Trey McNutt could make their big league debut at some point this season and both Alberto Cabrera and Brooks Raley could see time in the majors this year. It is highly unlikely that Matt Szczur or Rob Whitenack will be called up this season … both players need time in the minors and are not ready for the Show.
The next round of roster cuts were expected mid-week but according to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Cubs could wait until after the three split squad games (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) before announcing the third round of spring roster cuts. Jorge Soler and Javier Baez are among the players that should be sent to minor league camp when the roster is trimmed again.
Cubs News Bits
Josh Vitters is expected to make his spring debut on Thursday in a reserve role.
Kyuji Fujikawa has been impressive this spring but Sunday’s outing against the Indians might have been his best appearance to date. Dale Sveum told ESPN Chicago that Sunday was “easily” the best he has thrown.
Kyuji Fujikawa checked in at No. 20 on Baseball America’s preseason list of the top 20 rookies for the upcoming season. According to BA, best case scenario for Fujikawa this year is that he provides an antidote to Carlos Marmol’s highwire act and takes over the closer’s job.
Chris Rusin could have a shot of making the team out of camp as the second lefty in the bullpen.
Starlin Castro and Brent Lillibridge are expected back in the lineup on Wednesday.
Matt Garza played catch on Monday for the first time in eight days. Garza reportedly threw on flat ground from 45 feet. Garza is expected to rest on Tuesday and resume his rehab on Wednesday. The Cubs have not announced a timetable for Garza’s return.
The Cubs will square off against Team Japan on Friday at HoHoKam Park.
Anthony Rizzo’s time with Team Italy could result in big rewards for Rizzo and the Cubs.
MiLB.com took a look into Minor League park factors and run environments.