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Roster decisions: Olt's chances look good

MESA, Ariz. -- With final spring roster moves imminent Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria dropped hints on Tuesday morning on which direction he's leaning when it comes to several issues:

Mike Olt

It's looking more like Olt will make the team after a strong spring where he put vision problems behind him with long home runs and hard-hit outs.

"He's really seeing the ball well," Renteria said. "He's obviously putting a charge into the baseball. And he's looked like the guy from the offensive side that everyone expected to see a few years ago."

Analysis: A sore shoulder slowed Olt's progress in the field, but he's been playing third base for about a week. Although he made two errors in one inning over the weekend, he's reporting no issues with his throwing shoulder. At this point there is no reason Olt shouldn't make the 25-man roster.

Second base

Renteria backed off earlier statements this spring regarding Darwin Barney being his full-time starter there. Renteria was asked again on Tuesday if Barney was the man at second base.

"As we go into the season we have certain guys that are going to play a particular position and the second day you might see a different lineup," Renteria said.

Analysis: That can be a nod toward Luis Valbuena, who leads baseball this spring with six home runs. Or Renteria could be referencing Emilio Bonifacio, who is one behind for the lead in triples. And with Javier Baez potentially getting a call-up at second base later this season, the heat is on Barney from all over. But Renteria was right to point out that Barney's defense has great value. The bottom line is there will be more mixing and matching at several positions this season.

The closer

Despite a rough spring, Jose Veras is still the closer. Veras has a 7.88 ERA and has given up 11 hits in eight innings this spring but at least his eight strikeouts show he can still bring it at times.

"Veras knows how to get himself ready," Renteria said. "Most closers during the spring don't have the best outings. I'm not concerned ... When the lights turn on sometimes it's a whole different ballgame."

Analysis: Pitching in the middle of games and in spring save situations isn't close to the adrenaline rush a closer feels in the ninth inning of a packed major league stadium so Renteria is on the mark to a certain extent. But any pitcher this side of Mariano Rivera probably would like to know his stuff is ready for real action, and we have yet to see that from Veras. This isn't a grizzled veteran with 100 saves or more. This will be just his second year closing.

Starlin Castro

Even though Starlin Castro hasn't played in a Cactus League game since March 2, it still sounds like he will be ready for Opening Day as his recovery from a strained hamstring is almost complete.

"I'm totally comfortable with his health," Renteria said. "Totally comfortable."

Analysis: That means the Cubs won't have to make any dramatic roster moves to accommodate a disabled list stint or Castro's limited ability to play next week. Castro will participate in another minor league game on Wednesday after spending the day doing non-game drills on Tuesday. He'll play six or seven innings in the field before the Cubs decide if he's ready for exhibition games at the end of the week. It's not the perfect scenario for the start of his season, but if he's 100 percent on Opening Day then the Cubs took the right precautions.

Fifth starter

This was the only storyline in which Renteria didn't show his hand as he chooses between lefty Chris Rusin or righty Carlos Villanueva to start in the place of the ailing Jake Arrieta.

"We're putting our heads together," Renteria said of discussing the decision with Cubs brass and coaches.

Analysis: Rusin had a strong finish to last season and a better spring plus he would be on pace to start against the Philadelphia Phillies opening weekend. Renteria already pushed lefty Travis Wood to throw against the left-handed dominant lineup so it would only make sense that Rusin pitches against them as well. It would leave Villanueva in his long man role which he'll have anyway when Arrieta returns later in April.