Cubs Rotate the Rotation, Castro Gets Minor At Bats and Other Spring Training News

Rick Renteria announced Saturday how he would lineup the first four spots in his rotation to start the season. Jeff Samardzija will pitch Opening Day, as previously announced. Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel will follow Samardzija with Travis Wood filling the fourth spot in the rotation.

Travis Wood will get the ball for the first game of the year at Wrigley Field against the Phillies.

CubsMesaLogo-pubWhen Renteria announced Samardzija would get the ball on Opening Day, the assumption was that Wood, Jackson and Hammel would follow Samardzija in the rotation when the season started. But that is not the case and the Cubs will begin the year with Samardzija, Jackson, Hammel and Wood in the first four spots in the rotation.

The Cubs’ skipper did not say which pitcher would fill the fifth spot in the rotation. Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin are the leading candidates for the spot, and according to multiple reports Tsuyoshi Wada is also in the mix.

Rick Renteria should start running out lineups this week that he will use when the season starts in eight days. Plus, questions on how he plans on using his pen early in the season should be answered as well. Renteria should start managing to game situations as teams typically use the final week of Spring Training games as a tune-up for the regular season.

Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro played in a minor league game on Saturday afternoon at the Cubs facility. Castro did not play in the field and did not run at full speed out of the batter’s box. Castro reportedly ran the bases after the game.

Castro led off every inning and was able to get in six at bats, his first ‘game action’ since March 2. Castro reportedly got his running in, under supervision, in between at bats. Castro is expected play in minor league games again on Sunday, if he does not have any issues from Saturday. Castro could return to the Cubs’ lineup on Monday or Tuesday.

Starlin Castro went 2-for-5 with two doubles and a walk in his six at bats (groundout to short, groundout to short, double to right center, fly out to right, a seven-pitch walk, double to left center).

David Kaplan reported Castro’s hamstring injury is different from the one he suffered on the left side last spring. Castro told Kaplan more fluid built up in the hamstring this time from the strain.

The Cubs and Castro are saying he will be ready to take the field on Opening Day in Pittsburgh. But what would it hurt for Castro to take a couple of days to make sure he is ready? It would be better for Castro to make his 2014 debut for the home opener on April 4 then deal with hamstring issues all year long.

Javier Baez

Before the Cubs’ latest round of spring roster cuts were announced, Javier Baez told the beat writers he was fine after leaving Friday’s game in the sixth inning with a bruised right heel. Baez blamed the issue on wearing metal cleats. Baez said he will stick with his familiar plastic cleats from this point forward.

Javier Baez reacted like a pro when discussing his demotion to the minors. Baez said he was not surprised by the move and understands what he needs to work on at Iowa while playing shortstop.

According to a report from Patrick Mooney, “the Cubs would like to see Baez become a more selective hitter, without taking away what made him Baseball America’s no. 5 overall prospect.” The Cubs saw a lot of improvements in his at bats last season and they expect him to continue that improvement this year. And this spring he developed a routine he did not have last year.

Spring Roster Moves

The Cubs announced the sixth round of spring roster cuts on Saturday morning. The Cubs sent out seven players and officially reduced their spring roster to 37 players. But Kyuji Fujikawa and Jake Arrieta will not begin the season on the active roster, with Fujikawa expected to be placed on the 60-day DL in the very near future. Plus, the Cubs have four catchers in camp and as long as Welington Castillo and George Kottaras stay healthy both Eli Whiteside and John Baker will be reassigned to minor league camp soon. So that leaves 33 players in camp in which 25 of them, unless the front office makes an addition or subtraction, should start the season on the Cubs’ active roster.

Javier Baez headlined the list of players reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday. The team also sent Jonathan Sanchez, Chang-Yong Lim, Brian Schlitter, Chris Valaika and Casper Wells out and optioned Blake Parker to Triple-A Iowa.

With Parker no longer an option for the Cubs’ bullpen on Opening Day, the last two spots in the pen, depending on what the team does with Chris Rusin, are down to Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Alberto Cabrera and Neil Ramirez. Cabrera is the only one of the four relievers that is out of minor league options.

News and Notes

The Cubs announced Saturday that Jeff Samardzija will get an extra day before making his last Cactus League start of the spring. Samardzija will face the Diamondbacks on Wednesday in Scottsdale and is expected to throw only 50-60 pitches.

C.J. Edwards will get a start in a big league Spring Training game. Edwards is scheduled to start Tuesday night’s game in Peoria against the Padres. Tuesday is the Cubs last split squad day of the spring and due to the way the games are split (3:05pm CDT, 9:05pm CDT), the Cubs will not broadcast or telecast the Tuesday night game. The game will be available on Cubs.com with the Padres’ audio feed.

Eric Jokisch will also pitch in Tuesday night’s game against the Padres.

Darwin Barney told David Kaplan that he doesn’t pay attention to trade rumors. “I have enough going on here and at home, so I don’t pay any attention. I am working hard to be ready for the season.”

Jake Arrieta told Carrie Muskat he will throw another bullpen on Sunday. Arrieta said, “My body feels well, shoulder feels good. The velocity and arm strength is right where it needs to be.”

One of the pitchers the Cubs asked the Blue Jays about in a possible deal for Jeff Samardzija was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday. According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi, Aaron Sanchez will begin the season at the Double-A level but he made quite the impression in camp. Scouts were impressed by his stuff and polish according to Morosi.

Rick Sutcliffe spent the spring as a special instructor for the Cubs. Sutcliffe left the team after Saturday’s game to prepare for his job with ESPN. Sutcliffe tweeted he was a little sad he was leaving the Cubs but that a lot of good things are coming together for the Cubs … and in just three weeks he’s become a big fan of Rick Renteria.

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  • Tony_H

    Starlin Castro is doing minor league games. And the reason given is he can lead-off every innning. They also say he is ready to start the year and he may very well be good to go. But one other reason for playing in minor league games is that, if needed, the Cubs can back date his DL trip to March 22nd, the first day that teams can put players on the DL. This would get him clear by Sunday, April 6th and allow him to wait until Tuesday April 8th to play his 1st game. If he plays in a major league spring game, his date for DL moves to that game.

    Starlin may be ready to go and they are just using minor league games to get him the AB’s he needs for Opening Day, but even if he is fine, would holding him out 1 more week in the cold spring games still not be the right move.

  • Tony_H

    I like the move to give Wood the Home Opener start. Even if it makes sense due to the LH hitters the Phillies have in their lineup (Rusin anyone?) It is still a classy move by a rookie manager to honor Wood with this start. He earned the right to be on the mound, in front of the Cubs Faithful to kick-off the 100th year celebration at Wrigley.

  • Tony_H

    I really wish the Cubs Tuesday night game was televised by someone. I wanted to see CJ Edwards pitch. I guess we will have to wait for the MiLB.TV games.

  • JasonOfTheBurbs

    I can’t wait for the eventual trades and FA signings that will finally bring a #1 and #2 starter to this rotation. Hopefully next ST this SP group looks more formidable.

    Right now, I am looking forward to watching Lake, Olt, Rizzo, and maybe Castro when Cubs are batting. Sept should be a lot more interesting.

    • JasonOfTheBurbs

      leaving out Castillo wasn’t a knock on him as a player…good enough C, just not a super-exciting player yet. That opinion is subject to change if he improves a lot at the plate this year.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      I would be excited about Kalish too. By June he’ll be playing everyday.

  • GaryLeeT

    “and according to multiple reports Tsuyoshi Wada is also in the mix.”

    Ahhhh, April 1st is still over a week away.