<
>

Sveum anxious to see young talent play

Young players such as top prospect Javier Baez should get plenty of playing time with the Cubs early in Cactus League play. AP Photo/Morry Gash

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Dale Sveum said the Chicago Cubs' young players will get plenty of game action early on in Cactus League play which starts on Saturday.

"Some of our core younger players are going to get a good amount of at-bats the first couple weeks of spring (games)," Sveum said. "There always comes that time in spring training when the starters go seven innings, but we have so many split squad games they will get quite a few games in before being sent down. There are a lot of at-bats out there."

So that means 2011 first-round pick Javier Baez and $30 million Cuban prospect Jorge Soler will see plenty of action. So will infielder Junior Lake, as will "older" young players such as third baseman Josh Vitters and outfielder Brett Jackson. None in that group are expected to make the team, but Sveum said he is "very anxious" to see them all play.

"Those are the guys that are on the radar in the minor league systems that have all those God-given tools," he said. "The speed, the arm, the power. Hopefully the hitting ability. Pretty special talent those guys have, you want to see it in person and game speed."

Starters announced: The Cubs announced their starters for Games 3 and 4 of the Cactus League. Carlos Villanueva will pitch in Game 3 on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers while Edwin Jackson will start against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.

Previously Sveum announced Travis Wood as his starter for Saturday's opening game of spring training against the Los Angeles Angels. Jeff Samardzija will pitch in Game 2 against the San Francisco Giants.

Matt Garza probably would have been one of those starters in the first week of the Cactus League but his debut has been pushed back due to a mild lat strain to his left side. He'll be out about a week before throwing again.

Fitch farewell: The final day ever at Fitch Park in Mesa was rained out on Wednesday as Cub players got a few bullpen sessions in before the downpour started. Others went inside to hit but there were no full squad drills.

"It's not bad to have a breather," Sveum said. "They were going pretty hard with a lot of ground balls and running the bases. It's not bad to have that breather."

As for leaving Fitch Park, Sveum didn't have many specific memories past rehabbing a broken leg here 25 years ago when the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers shared the facility for extended spring training.

"Spring training is what it is in any park," he said. "Here it's a little unique because you have to move."

On Thursday, just like every year at about this time, the Cubs will move over to HoHokam Park for the rest of camp including all their spring home games. Starting next year they'll have a new facility nearby that will hold all of spring training including their games as well.

Television schedule: The Cubs announced their television schedule with all 162 games to be broadcast on hi-definition. The opening game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1 will be on WGN-TV. ESPN is slated to broadcast the July 14 game against the St. Louis Cardinals and several other Sunday broadcasts will be determined at a later date.