GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Of the numerous spring training injuries the Chicago Cubs have suffered this year there’s one that bothers manager Dale Sveum more than the others.
“The one disappointment was (Matt) Garza,” Sveum said Sunday before his team played the Cleveland Indians. “Right now Garza is the one, if we had him opening day, that changes things around a little bit. We’d have three guys like that at the top.”
Garza has been out with a lat injury on his left side since early in spring training. This, after missing time in the second half last year due to an elbow strain.
“In our world it’s actually a very serious injury,” Sveum said of the lat ailment. “You can’t cough, you can’t laugh, you can’t sneeze. You do everything with your ribs and everything. That was just an unfortunate thing. His arm was great, he felt great.”
Analysis: Sveum is right on the money with his take. Garza was penciled in at the top of the rotation as he and the doctors had done everything right to get his arm ready for the spring. Other injured players, like Ian Stewart and Scott Baker, were counted on far less.
“We weren’t sure on Stewart,” Sveum stated. “We signed him but we weren’t sure... It would have been nice to see Stewart play every day. We were hoping more than counting on it.”
In Baker's case, it would have been foolish to count on a player coming back from Tommy John surgery, hence the Cubs' assumption he wouldn’t be ready until mid-April. They planned to start the season without him and that hasn’t changed. It’ll just be longer before he can contribute.
So Sveum is right. Garza is the one injury that can have the biggest effect on the Cubs this season.
Then there were three
With Rafael Dolis' demotion to Triple-A on Sunday the Cubs are down to three pitchers for one spot in the bullpen.
To review, James Russell, Shawn Camp, Hector Rondon, Michael Bowden, Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Marmol have made the team. Zach Putnam, Cory Wade and lefty Hisanori Takahashi are vying for the final spot. Here’s a breakdown -- as well as some of their thoughts -- of their spring going into action on Sunday:
Putnam: 8.2 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 5K, 3.12 ERA, 1.50 WHIP: “At this point in camp it’s easy enough to do the math but nothing changes,” Putnam said Sunday. “You just go out there and do your best.
“You don’t need to talk about it. Everyone knows where they stand. It’s been nice so far. It’s been a competitive camp so that’s been really good.
“It’s one of those things if you were getting constant status updates would it make things more hectic or stressful? It’s nice to be in your own little world.
“This is the latest I’ve been in camp. I’ve never broken camp with a team before. This is all uncharted territory for me, seeing how things play out.”
Wade: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 5.63 ERA, 1.00 WHIP: “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens, but for the most part it’s out of our control. We just have to wait and kind of see.
“It would be great to make the team. I think there are some things I can do to help the team but at the same time it’s out of my control.
“As a player you have no idea the direction they’re going to move in.”
Takahashi: 13.2 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 3 HR, 9 K’s, 3.29 ERA, 1.39 WHIP: “I definitely feel there is an opportunity and I’m saying to myself I’m that guy,” Takahashi said. “But if I think about that too much and put pressure on myself, it makes everything tougher. So I’m trying not to worry about that too much.
“I think I’m preparing myself the right way for the start of the season and mentally I’m in a good state as well.”
Analysis: On Saturday Sveum said it was still “undecided” who would win the job but after a two-inning performance by Takahashi that afternoon it prompted Sveum to say “he didn’t hurt his chances.”
“The thing about him is he doesn’t hurt himself,” Sveum said. “He throws strikes.”
Takahashi sounds like the front runner, mostly because having a second lefty in the bullpen is never a bad idea. It could take the early season pressure off of James Russell, who had 77 appearances last year.
Whoever makes the team will have to be added to the 40-man roster, which means one player will be removed as the Cubs are at the limit now.
Marmol still closing
Though Carlos Marmol has pitched the eighth inning in his last two outings -- both with the Cubs leading -- Sveum said he’s still the guy to close out games.
“Nothing to look into,” Sveum said. “He’s the closer. It’s just spring training, that’s all."
Marmol added: “That’s what they say. Still the ninth.”
Marmol walked two and hit a batter on Saturday, facing the Angels as the tying run scored on a passed ball. Sveum defended Marmol’s spring, noting he’s had some quick innings to go along with some control issues.
Outfielder Dave Sappelt was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with a bruise on his neck. He was hit by a thrown ball sliding into third base on Saturday.
Going into Sunday's game against the Indians Cubs pitchers were 9-for-22 (.409) at the plate. The five starters in the rotation to begin the season are 8-for-20 (.400).
The Quote: “So far his at-bats, this spring training, have been more mature than in the past.” -- Sveum on Starlin Castro