Heading into the weekend and the first Spring Training game on Sunday…
- Manager Mike Quade is expected to announce Sunday’s lineup later today, but he says he sees Aramis Ramirez batting fourth. Quade and Ramirez both like Aramis hitting four because it sets his primary role as a run producer, which apparently puts Ramirez in the right mindset. Whatever it takes.
- Quade also sees Starlin Castro remaining in the two-hole, as expected. Castro could end up leading off, but not right now. Quade is expecting big things from Castro, but is all too aware of the possibility of a sophomore slump.
- On the pitching side, look for Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol to get some work on Sunday, Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner to go on Monday, Ryan Dempster to go on Tuesday, and James Russell and Carlos Silva to go on Wednesday.
- Marlon Byrd is tutoring his probable future replacement in Brett Jackson, which is no surprise, given what a great teammate Byrd is. Byrd even goes so far as to acknowledge that Jackson may well soon replace him – though Byrd says the move will just bump him to right field (sucks for Tyler Colvin, eh?).
- Jeff Samardzija is in a make-or-break position with the Cubs this year without any option years left as he tries to crack the bullpen. New pitching coach Mark Riggins says Samardzija’s working hard, which is a start. Pitching well is the next step.
- The Baseball Tonight crew was at Cubs camp this week, and they had nothing but good things to say about the look of the Cubs, as well as the energy and excitement of both the players and the manager. And that’s good, because it’s generally believed that excitement in Spring Training adds at least 35 to 50 runs to a team’s total over the course of a season.