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Looper helps himself in rotation battle

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Braden Looper's work on Sunday didn’t hurt the right-hander’s chances of securing a rotation spot when the Cubs break camp on March 30.

Looper went 3 2/3 innings, allowing one run while striking out two in the Cubs’ 7-5 split-squad win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although the veteran pitcher is fighting for his professional life, the teammate inside of him can’t help but hope the other candidates for starting spots do well.

“You can’t play this game like that,” Looper said. “Whether I’m talking to [Andrew Cashner] on the side about his pitching, or you can fill that name in with anybody, I’m always going to be that way. Yeah, I want to pitch, and I want to start. [But] if you can’t do the other stuff, it’s not worth it.”

Looper is in a battle with Carlos Silva, Cashner, Randy Wells, Casey Coleman, Todd Wellemeyer and James Russell. Two from that group will fill the fourth and fifth rotation spots. Possibly one of two of the others will contend for the last bullpen position.

Looper has said from day one of spring training that he prefers to start.

“I’ve done both,” Looper said. “I was a reliever eight years and then I started the last three. Right now I want to keep throwing, stay healthy, see what happens and then we’ll go from there.”

Looper hit his limit of 65 pitches in the fourth inning Sunday in his first start of the spring. He should get three more opportunities to pitch to win a spot before the regular season opens on April 1.

“He threw some good breaking balls. He was mostly on target,” said Pat Listach, who is coaching the games in Arizona while Mike Quade handles the Las Vegas ones. “He threw the ball as well as he’s thrown it all spring.”