Sveum near decisions on top starter, lineup

MESA, Ariz. -- Sunday marked the start of a week when the Chicago Cubs will give answers to some looming Opening Day questions.

From Las Vegas, where the Cubs are playing a pair of split-squad games against the Texas Rangers this weekend, manager Dale Sveum said he expects to name his Opening Day starter after Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza each make one more outing.

Garza is lined up for Opening Day if he starts every fifth day, but Dempster has been pitching one day earlier than Garza the way the rotation is laid out now. Dempster is the favorite to get the Opening Day nod, just as he did last year.

Not long after the starting pitcher for the first game of the season is named, Sveum said he will probably start using a lineup very similar to the one he plans on using April 5 in the opener against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

Sveum said he also wants to use something close to a regular-season lineup over the last 10 days of the Cactus League schedule. Since the final Cactus League game is April 3, that regular lineup should start showing up next weekend.

The biggest lineup question is where Alfonso Soriano bats. Sveum has suggested it will be in the third, fourth or fifth spot. Also, without a clear-cut No. 2 hitter, who will Sveum use to follow the leadoff man? Starlin Castro or even Geovany Soto could end up with the role. Castro has spent a lot of time in the No. 3 hole since Cactus League games began.

“As an offense you start doing things you wouldn’t do early in spring, sacrifice bunting, using the bullpen the way we’re going to use it during the season, mixing and matching in the bullpen,” Sveum said earlier this week. “That’s when all that starts with about 10 days left.”