The wafting smell of Connies Pizza and the echoing hollers of Go Cubs Go as the blue ‘W’ flag ripples from centerfield is so close fans can nearly taste it. Opening day is less than two week away and the Cubs roster is beginning to finally take shape.
Only one spot in the rotation remains open as the Cubs head into the final week of camp. Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Chris Volstad have their spots solidly locked leaving only one opening for what seems to be a battle between Jeff Samardzija and Rodrigo Lopez.
Manager Dale Sveum has made recent comments that suggest Samardzija can largely be viewed as the front runner, even after his less than stellar Friday start against the Rockies that saw the righty give up seven runs on 10 hits over four innings.
On the eve of Samardzija’s latest start, Sveum also announced that Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo will not have a spot on the Cubs opening day roster despite both players ‘being ready for the big leagues’, according to the Cubs manager.
The former No. 1 pick Jackson and the newly acquired Rizzo were not the only players to be re-assigned. Jackson, alongside Jay Jackson, Jim Adduci, Michael Brenly, and Bobby Scales were assigned to Minor League camp while Arian Cardenas followed Rizzo in being opted to Triple-A Iowa.
Before the weekend it seemed starting pitching had the most pressing uncertainties for the Cubs. With the rotation finally taking shape, as of late, the remaining questions are now directed towards the bullpen.
Kerry Wood, who has firmly secured a set-up spot in the pen, has not seen action since last Sunday due to a sore back. While Sveum urges that there are no apparent issues, Wood is not as young nor as durable as he used to be. Problems of durability are sure to face Wood – this may be an early sign.
Additionally unsettling, during Thursday’s game Cubs reliever Marcos Mateo was pulled because of soreness in his elbow.
Mateo has been on record saying that the soreness is similar to the injury that plagued the reliever in last year’s campaign. Even with recent MRI results being negative, Sveum announced today that Mateo will not be available in the Cubs opener.