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chase fieldHere it is: the final tuneup before the regular season gets underway on Monday. The Cubs play the Diamondbacks again this afternoon, with Jason Hammel making his final preseason start.

Starlin Castro played in the first couple Spring games, and now he’ll play in the last one. The Cubs’ starting shortstop is back in the lineup after missing the last four weeks with a strained hamstring. Hopefully he comes out of this one clean – and looking locked in at the plate; that would be nice, too – and he’s ready to go for Monday. It’s nice to know that the Cubs have some quality infield versatility and depth, but Castro still might be the single most important player on this roster. Continued struggles in the first few months, and the Cubs have a serious problem on their hands. Out of the gates hot and looking like he’s got his swing back? The Cubs have options aplenty. And they might even win a few games.

If you’re looking for hints on how Ricky Renteria sees the lineup shaking out (at least with respect to the top of the order), you get those hints today. Bronson Arroyo is on the mound for the Diamondbacks, and, in a regular season game against him, I’d be perfectly fine with this lineup, though I’d probably want to see Sweeney in center, and Bonifacio at second. That said, I’m not looking for the Cubs to bench Barney against all righties. So, yeah, I’m fine with this. I really can’t get over how many mix and match options this roster will afford RR.

Lineup:

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF
  2. Starlin Castro, SS
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  5. Ryan Sweeney, DH
  6. Welington Castillo, C
  7. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  8. Ryan Kalish, LF
  9. Darwin Barney, 2B
  • Chris

    TV: CSN Radio: WGN 720

    • ChrisFChi

      Thanks chris

    • dumbledoresacubsfan

      Isn’t this game also a freebie on MLB.tv?

      • Funn Dave

        Dude. Thank you. Watching definitely beats staring at the Gameday tracker.

  • notcubbiewubbie

    sure hope boom boom valbuena is not our starting third baseman on opening day. wouldn’t mind him playing second but olt is the future hopefully. seen enough of valbuena and no way he should start at third base.

    • Mike

      I imagine Olt starts against Liriano. I would expect we are going to see quite a bit more platooning this year.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Mix and match is the gateway to 85 wins with some breaks… Castro one awkward swing or dive for a ball away from DL…. Shark going to prove he’s better than he’s shown.. Lake will be starting CF by May… Baez hot first half and Castro slump will force Cubs to make tough decision by June

    • bbmoney

      “Castro one awkward swing or dive for a ball away from DL”

      Aren’t we all though Diehard? Aren’t we all?

      • willis

        I ate taco bell breakfast this morning…I may be heading for the DL.

        • Medicos

          I thought I saw you and Leslie Mann at Taco Bell this morning, but I wasn’t that was u.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Whatever..Lake not Barney

  • Cody5798

    Who is starting first baseman at Iowa?

    • https://twitter.com/dwoytek dw8

      Yes!

    • ced landrum

      Lars Anderson?

  • BWA

    Hey Brett,

    I just noticed that you linked up your masterful Financial Story piece to the right side of the page. May I suggest that you add something like “Featured Article” or something similar above it so that people know its a link? I didn’t know it at first.

    Best,
    BWA

  • NorthSideIrish

    I can’t believe Len just had to read a promo about how Opening Day tickets are still available. Things have really changed the last five years…

    • Jason P

      That it has. This is from opening day last year, where there had to be at least 2,000 empty seats.

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/photos?gameId=330408116&photoId=2870296#photo_2870296

    • Brocktoon

      As of yesterday, there are tickets still available for EVERY game. I didn’t expect Opening Day to sell out after it failed to last year, but I thought at least the Yankee night game and the White Sox games would have.

      • BT

        The White Sox sucked worse than the Cubs last year, and that series isn’t on the weekend anymore. It stopped being a draw a while ago.

        • Brocktoon

          Wow, didn’t realize how much the attendance dropped off on those. Only 31K and change last year.

          Looks like only 2 “sellouts” (42,2404 & 41,981) last year, both of them Saturday games against the Cardinals.

          There are plenty of sections available for the 2 Cards Saturday games this year, more for the May game than July. July might have an outside chance of selling out, though there are still bleachers available which is a bad sign. Yankees game looks similar.

    • lnfihDeL

      Really? You can’t believe that?

      lol

  • Jason P

    I really like the spring Barney’s had. He’s looked more patient and less pull-happy. Hopefully it carries into the regular season.

  • Illini Cubbie Fan

    Does anyone else really enjoy watching Arroyo pitch? The movement on his pitches is always so fascinating to me.

    • Edwin

      I kinda do. At this point, he pretty much relies on changing his arm angle and getting max movement out of his pitches. Plus, since his pitches are slower, the movement is more noticeable.

      His hair makes him look like an idiot, but he’s an interesting guy to watch pitch. Frustrating when he shuts your team down too.

  • lnfihDeL

    Dos Castro look bigger to anyone else?

    Impressed with E-Jax yesterday and Hammel so far today.

    • APPNATION

      yeah he really bulked up this winter

  • cubbiekoolaid2015

    Neil Ramirez is absolutely filthy. Unbelievable he was the player to be named in that trade.

    • https://twitter.com/dwoytek dw8

      In short bursts, he’s looked really good. A couple of those sliders looked kinda flat and got whiffs so…

  • Jason P

    I can’t believe Henry Blanco still plays. He was on the Cubs 6 years ago, and I remember him being really old even back then. He’s 42 now and still filling the same role he filled 17 years ago.

  • http://www.rotochamp.com/baseball/TeamPage.aspx?Team=CHC RotoChamp

    Nice to see Alcantara hit a HR against a quality major leaguer (Brad Ziegler). Ziegler had only given up 5 HRs in his last 200 IPs.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Hopefully he does a lot more of that. I still want him to be our everyday 2nd baseman. Definately has a lot of pop from the left side.

      • bonger0493

        I want rizzo and Castro to have bounce back years and Baez alcantara and Bryant to force their way into chicago by the deadline . Could make for a fun last 2 months. Especially if olt has a good year too. Rizzo first Baez second Castro short olt third Castillo catching alcantara center Bryant right

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    It’s kind of wierd to see Dave McKay at first base in a D-backs uniform.

  • E

    Nice 9th inning by Castillo to nail down the win.

  • cubmig

    ……a nice end to a beginning.

  • PolarBear

    So looking forward to the beginning of the season and Brett doing the EBS after every game. Not to mention Luke and his great work on the farm teams. Let’s all stay level-headed this year and try to enjoy the season. Lots of things to look forward to and build on. GO, CUBS GO!!!

    • ChrisFChi

      Agree 100%. I’ve missed the EBS, and the positivity the new season gives. Keep the faith Cubs faithful! This year on paper may look ugly on paper, but I believe we may all be in for a surprise or two.

  • Rebuilding

    Some nice performances today. Alcantara with a bomb. Vogelbach with 2 walks. Kalish 3-3

    • Lou Brown

      I like the way Vogelbach looked at the plate this spring. He has a good approach, won’t reach out of the zone, willing to take a walk. As someone who just reached high A at the end of last season, he doesn’t look at all overmatched facing mlb pitching. Curious to see how he develops.

  • Porkslap

    Remember back in 2008 when the Cubs got swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS? I remember thinking then, well that window just slammed shut, time to cut bait and re-build. Finally, five worthless seasons later, there is hope on the horizon. So pumped!

    Order of business within the year:

    - Extend Samardzija or, if traded, sign two of below:
    - Sign Shields (preferably), Scherzer, or Masterson.
    - Promote Baez and Bryant
    - Draft Beede (Vandy alum so gotta pull for him – go Dores!)

    This is not a pipe dream. These things can be done. Make it so Theo!

    • Jr 25

      A. Shark gone by Aug 1st
      B. Shields forget about as he’s almost 33
      C. I agree with your C & D

  • Voice of Reason

    Shark gone by Aug 1st? Can’t just say that. They could extend him. There could be many variables between today and Aug 1.

    No to shields because he almost 33? Again, could be many variables between today and when/if shields is a free agent.

    Can’t just broad bush both players. Both could be cubs in 2015 and beyond….

    • brains

      they’ll continue to try to sign him for under market value with a bad trade clause. once that fails they’ll market him hard again like last year, until their demands are so high that they have no takers, and jed has to dump him for a minor league maybe at the last second. keith law will declare any trade for a minor leaguer via a mlb player genius since he’s most of a businessman than a talent evaluator. he ascribes value, not potential. and that’s how it’ll go this year.

      • Voice of Reason

        OK, so what is fair market value for shark?

        And, its still your belief that if they trade him, it would qualify as a dump trade?

        • brains

          5 years, no trade, and whatever a #3 is going for these days – 15m?

          so 5/75 would be a very typical contract. any less is a bargain, which he isn’t willing to give if the team’s sabotage phase is going to ruin his lifetime win/loss ratio. any more might be too much, though at his age an extra year wont be unheard of on the open market.

          • Voice of Reason

            5/75 for a #3? Boy, Garza and Santana and a couple other starters who would be #3s or better would love to have that contract right now. That contract is not very typical based on last years free agent starters.

            If he values his lifetime win/loss ratio then he better stick with the cubs. The talent is coming whether you believe so or not.

            • Jr 25

              So Voice your willing to pay a soon to be 30yr old #3 at best for 15mill plus and a 33yr old Ace or maybe even #2 15mill plus when we are still at least 2yrs away? Glad your not running things!

              • Voice of Reason

                Did I miss something in my post where I said I was willing to pay anyone anything?

                Reading is a skill

                • brains

                  lol

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