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The Chicago Cubs split their split squad games today, beating the Rangers 3-2, and losing to the White Sox 7-5. Among the notable bits…

  • Chris Volstad largely matched yesterday’s solid Jeff Samardzija outing, and didn’t do anything to disuade folks from a growing belief that the back two starters in the rotation as of Opening Day will be Samardzija and Volstad (it’s not like Randy Wells is pitching poorly, you’ll note – he’s matching them start for start, and he’s the one who’s had the most big league success).
  • Casey Coleman rebounded from a disastrous relief outing with a solid start, giving up just two hits in three innings, and striking out three. What happens to him will be very interesting – if the Cubs believe he could have a future in the pen, they might elect to give him a bullpen spot out of Spring Training, or send him to Iowa to adjust to the role. Or, he could go back to Iowa and continue to start. I’m not sure that he’ll improve too much more in that role at this point, however.
  • Andy Sonnanstine had another rough outing, going two innings – one of which was fine, one of which was a five-run, slow-motion vomit. He increasingly looks destined for Iowa, if the Cubs elect to keep him at all.
  • Tony Campana finally got a hit (two of them, actually), and stole a base. The impact of a poor Spring training will be put to the test when it comes to Campana, who was presumed to be the favorite for the fifth outfielder coming into the Spring. Now? He’s probably on the outside looking in…
  • …thanks largely to Joe Mather’s continued performance. He keeps hitting (a game-winning homer today), and he can play all over the field. Eventually, if he continues to play well in the season, it’s possible his presence could make Jeff Baker expendable, which would allow the Cubs to bring someone like Campana back up (assuming Mather makes the team in April, and Campana does not). There’s still a long way to go, obviously.
  • Dave Sappelt had a double in his two at bats today, but he, too, would probably be bounced from the roster if Mather makes it.
  • Alfredo Amezaga had a double in four at bats, Bobby Scales had a hit in three at bats, and Edgar Gonzalez had a hit in three at bats. I’m not sure any of those three really has much of a chance of making the team at this point, though. Assuming the Cubs carry 12 pitchers, there will be only five bench spots. One goes to the back-up catcher, one goes to Jeff Baker, and two go to outfielders. That leaves just one other bench spot, and Dale Sveum keeps talking about Blake DeWitt (who went 0 for 3 today) like he’s already on the team.
  • The bullpen competition remains hot. Lendy Castillo threw yet another scoreless inning, as did Rafael Dolis. Blake Parker threw two scoreless (and he immediately followed Chris Volstad). Marcos Mateo was solid for an inning, but then had to pitch a second inning (game went to extras), and gave up the deciding homer to Jordan Danks (as well as another, unearned, run).
  • Cliffy

    Brett, i’m leaning toward Campana and Mather both making the team at start of season. Wrigley field plays big early in the season. Cubs will want a small ball team early on IMHO.

    • gratefulled

      Yes, but Campana proved last year and this spring that he can’t play small ball. Campana should have won the bunting contest, hands down.

      • hogie

        It wasn’t a competition of getting on base with a bunt, it was about placing them. If I recall he did pretty good, but was crushed by Clevenger with the second highest score overall. The tourney means nothing anyway, but I would like to see him put a few good ones down in a game scenario.

        • BFiddy

          “If I recall he did pretty good…”

          Correction:

          If I recall he done pretty good…

          Grammar…ya heard of it?

          >.>

          • hogie

            What?

            This was tongue in cheek right? Otherwise, I guess the way you corrected me would be right if your mother was also your aunt. Then again, the grammar attack is usually used when you have nothing of substance to add to the conversation.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              You should have a comma after “cheek.”

              • hogie

                LOL, thanks Brett.

    • DocWimsey

      Also, Epstein has zero use for small ball. He might be a disciple of Billy Beane, but Beane was (for all intents and purposes) a disciple of Earl Weaver.

      As for the bunting contest, that was largely silly, it seemed.

  • gratefulled

    Great notes Brett, thanks. I will add that Dolis was very shaky in his 1 scoreless inning, but wasn’t helped by Brenly’s inability to smother a fastball in the dirt. And, my money would be on Mather to make the team…looks like a very solid back-up.

    I like Wells being put in the 5-spot behind the Shark.

  • CubFan Paul

    My 5 bench spots:

    Mather – main RH backup at 1B & 3B, all 3 OF spots are plus (Baker gets traded in favor of the cheaper, faster Mather)

    Reed Johnson – 4th OF

    Campana – undeserving 5th OF but his speed late in games combined w/ Mather’s emergence makes him the 25th man

    Clevenger – more versatile than Castillo & LH

    Barney – the LH Cardenas starts at 2B & bats 2nd, 7th or 8th in the lineup

    • daveyrosello

      There’s no way Jeff Baker isn’t on the Cubs opening day. Substitute him over Campana in your list above. As for Cardenas, I’d say it’s 50/50 between him and DeWitt, and for either, they’re competing for a backup IF job. Barney will be the starter.

      • CubFan Paul

        Jeff Baker and Mather are the same guy (ever see them together?). Chances are they don’t make the team together because they’re both RH & the other reasons you ignored above

  • Serio

    Volstad & Samardzija look it be the front runners for the starting rotation. Do you see Wells and Wood in the pen?? Maybe a Wells trade? They have SO much pitching.

  • Ryan

    I think its likely that if Wells doesn’t make the team they look to trade him. If they can’t get what they want they could put him in the bullpen

  • Mike F

    I find it interesting, Jackson and Rizzo have had good if not better springs. In the light air of Arizona, Lahair has been exactly what he is. It’s early but there’s a lot to like with Rizzo and Jackson.

  • art

    Oops, my bad. i thought Mike maddux was with milwaukee. give me a 100 lashes.

  • Evolution

    I know that Travis Wood has been hit pretty hard…but, has there been any discussion about his basic stuff? Is he still looking viable…whether at the beginning of the season, or down the line?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Definitely down the line, at least. He’s got an option, which could work against him – if the Cubs can afford to stash him at AAA for a bit, they will. I still like him very much, long-term.

  • JustSwain

    O.k., another 0 for 4 for Lahair (boo). I know he has the vocal support of the front office and manager at this point, but is there any historical president for a player in his first full year in the majors, putting up these kind of spring numbers and then breaking out in the bigs? I’m really hoping the answer is yes, and in response I will get a list of names with long and prosperous careers. Anyone spring to mind for anyone? I’m really trying hard not to be negative about this kid, it would be awesome if the Cubs started the season with a power bat at first, but Spring is making me nervous. Please alleviate my fears, guys, I could use it. I’m such a pessimist, I see Lahairs numbers and start to feel nervous, and I see Rizzo’s numbers and don’t allow myself to get optimistic because its just spring training. Please, share your stories about Lahair induced nervousness (LIN)….my therapist says its good to get it in the open. I’m a fan (of the Cubs not Lahair, but lord give me strength I am trying), I don’t want bashing, but perhaps if those of us who suffer from LIN can share our stories, we can gain emotional strength from each other. Either that or just remind me its spring training and its not worth getting nervous about. Frankly, on March 19th, I’m starting to wonder.

    • SirCub

      “I know he has the vocal support of the front office and manager at this point, but is there any historical president for a player in his first full year in the majors, putting up these kind of spring numbers and then breaking out in the bigs?”

      Good question, maybe Washington? Hmm, not sure though. I want to say Lincoln, but I know that’s not right…

    • daveyrosello

      Brian LaHair = Micah Hoffpauir = Julio Zuleta = Jason Dubois. 4A hitters never make it in the bigs. And if you’re putting up big numbers in the PCL in your late twenties, you’re a 4A hitter.

      The good news is that there is no reason for the Cubs to have any kind of hard commitment to LaHair, he came out of nowhere after all. I predict they give him two months, and if he’s sucking wind by June 1, Rizzo gets the call-up and LaHair gets dumped.

      • SirCub

        Brian Lahair = Jose Bautista = Michael Morse?

        Players that didn’t get a legitimate chance to prove themselves in the big leagues until their late twenties because of roster blockage, health issues, and management not having faith in them to give them a fair shot.

        Thing about baseball is that it is not one-dimensional. There is always a list of players to exemplify a point, and there is always a list of counterexamples, too.

        • daveyrosello

          Maybe Morse, but Bautista is a bad counterexample. He’s been a MLB regular since 2006, when he was 25 yo. LaHair is 29 yo and has been playing in the PCL for SIX years. I understand your point, fair enough, but the evidence strongly suggests that LaHair is a 4A prototype. The Cubs should use a very short leash with him if the indications are that Rizzo is ready.

          • SirCub

            True, but the Pirates aren’t really a step up from a PCL team. I understand your concern, and agree with your suggestion of caution, but I don’t think there is any evidence that points to Lahair being an inadequate ML hitter. There is just a lack of evidence that he can be an adequate ML hitter. Two different things: a lack of evidence is not evidence. That’s why I think he should be given a little bit longer of a leash (say 3 or 4 months), in order to get a large sample size to see if he possibly is the real deal.

    • Mrp

      I don’t have any names for you, but I thought I would throw in my two cents here. Almost every game that I have watchedlistened to this spring where LaHair has started had a starting left handed pitcher going for the opposing team. I’ll have to look that up though.

      Edit: Per Cubs.com he is 2 for 16 against lefties and 4 for 16 against righties, so it isn’t quite as inbalanced as I thought.

      • JustSwain

        Actually 4 for 16 against righties is the best news I’ve heard in response to this post. What I’m generally getting is a feeling that there are very few (but knowledgeable) people on this site who think that Lahair is going to ammount to much in the bigs. I’m sorry to hear that, and I hope we are all wrong. Whats the deal with Rizzo’s service time? How does it effect service time if he comes up in the middle of a season as opposed to breaking camp with the big league team?

  • FromFenwayPahk

    Dustin Pedrioa hit .180 in April of his first year. Fans were calling for any replacement for what appeared to be an undersized, featherweight-hitting middle infielder. Time has born out that the only thing undersized was the sample size that spring. I’m not saying Lahair is a future rookie of the year and MVP. I’m just saying that small sample sizes (and especially spring training when players and coaches are experimenting) don’t matter. Someone knew Pedroia’s fundamentals were sound (and he had an OK OBP during that horrible spring stretch).

    • JustSwain

      Key word here….Middle Infielder. Most teams are built to absorb poor hitting from middle infielders, catchers, and pitchers, and build lineups around outfielders, and corner infielders. How long would Kevin Millar have lasted if he put up a .180 in april? Still it is a good example of what I was asking for, so thanks.

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