February 2013

2/28 Cubs 5, A’s 3

Dave Sappelt and Darnell McDonald each hit RBI doubles to lift the Cubs to a 5-3 victory Thursday over the Athletics.

Derek Norris hit a solo home run and scored on Michael Choice’s triple for Oakland and starter Brett Anderson, named the A’s Opening Day starter prior to the game. Anderson gave up one hit over two innings, striking out two.

Feldman, making his Cubs debut, gave up two hits, walked two and struck out two over two innings. Feldman had spent his entire career with the Rangers, but signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs in November, in hopes of securing a spot in the rotation.

Sappelt hit a RBI double with one out in the Chicago third to tie the game at 1 but Norris gave the A’s the lead again with a solo home run with two outs in the fourth off Travis Wood. Wood, battling for a spot in the rotation, gave up two hits over two innings and did not walk a batter. Wood got the win.

The Cubs had runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth against Bartolo Colon when Brent Lillibridge hit a grounder to second baseman Scott Sizemore, who flipped to shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, but he dropped the ball and a run scored. Junior Lake followed with a RBI single to go ahead, 3-2.

McDonald added a RBI double with one out in the Chicago fifth, and Christian Villanueva hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Cubs’ Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon, who is coming back from elbow surgery, pitched an efficient 1-2-3 seventh.

Up next: Jeff Samardzija will make his second Cactus League start on Friday when he faces the Diamondbacks at HoHoKam Stadium. Samardzija, vying for the Opening Day job, gave up three hits and struck out two in two innings in his first outing against the Giants. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Feldman, Soler throw strikes

Scott Feldman likes pitching for the Cubs when the defense makes plays like Jorge Soler did in the first inning Thursday. Soler, starting in right field against the Athletics, showed his strong arm when he threw a perfect strike to get Josh Reddick out at third base as he tried to advance on Brandon Moss’ hit.

“It seems like they have some studs, some young guys who are going to be studs,” Feldman said of the Cubs’ prospects. “That throw [Soler] made from right field is about as good a throw as you can make. Reddick got thrown out there and he had a look of shock on his face, like, ‘You’re not supposed to throw me out like that.’ It was a good play.”

Feldman had a good day in his Cubs debut. He gave up two hits, walked two and struck out two over two innings.

“First time out there, you kind of get the butterflies going again,” Feldman said. “It was nice to get that one out of the way. For the most part, I was executing my pitches pretty well. I would’ve liked to have thrown more breaking balls for a strike but for the first time out, it was fine.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Castro out 2-3 days

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will be sidelined two or three days because of tightness in his left hamstring. Castro was able to hit in the batting cage on Thursday and took part in the team bunting tourney, beating Rafael Lopez to advance.

“He’s fine,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Thursday of Castro, who pulled up as he ran to first base on Wednesday and had to come out of the game. “It’ll be two or three days, but basically it’s minimal — there’s more tightness. I don’t think there’s any pull. It just tightened up on him.”

Castro did play catch along the right field line under the watch of the Cubs athletic trainers on Thursday.

The Cubs already are thin because of injuries to their infielders. Third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters are both sidelined with strained left quads. Sveum said Vitters is ahead of Stewart slightly in their rehabs. Both were injured Feb. 21, and both expected to be sidelined 10 to 14 days. Neither was expected to start hitting for another week, Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Garza to throw

Matt Garza will play catch Thursday, which may not sound like much, but it is. The right-hander has not thrown since Feb. 17 because of a strained left lat.

“This is the first step to being ready to start pitching,” Garza said. “I’m not going to rush this thing.”

The Cubs felt Garza could be ready by Opening Day but he’s not going to push it.

“If I try to rush and be ready April 1, I might be re-injured in June, and be out,” he said. “If I take my time, maybe I’m pitching April 15 through October, maybe November.”

The good news is that his arm feels great. He missed the final 2 1/2 months of last season because of elbow problems.

“There’s no concern there — it’s just caution,” Garza said of his arm. “I’m just going to take my time and be easy with it and make sure it’s nice and free flowing. if there’s any snag, then speak up. This is a time where a guy like me, I love being out there. I’ve got to swallow my pride and put the team first.”

Garza, who said he felt like a caged animal during his offseason rehab, said he’s very eager to throw.

“It’s more anxiety — I feel left behind,” he said. “I’m not out there. That’s what sucks. Injuries happen, and if I speed it up, it could happen again. I’d rather take my time with it and chomp at the bit a little longer than having to chomp at the bit for six weeks than 10 to 12 days.”

He had six bullpen sessions before the live BP session that he cut short.

“It’s kind of like I took a two-week vacation,” he said of the time off. “I haven’t had one so maybe that’s why it happened.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Cubs lineup – UPDATED

Scott Feldman will make his Cubs debut on Thursday when they play host to the Athletics at HoHoKam Stadium. Starlin Castro was scheduled to start at shortstop but that was before he had to leave Wednesday’s game with some tightness in his hamstring. Here’s an updated lineup. Javier Baez will start at short:

Sappelt CF
Barney 2B
Hairston DH
McDonald RF
Soler LF
Navarro C
Baez SS
Lillibridge 1B
Lake 3B

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Bunt tourney Sweet 16 – UPDATED

Defending champ David DeJesus had to rally but he reached the sweet 16 in the Cubs bunting tournament on Thursday. DeJesus trailed Darwin Barney heading into the third round, and scored just enough points to pass the second baseman. Casey Coleman, Edwin Jackson and Starlin Castro also advanced. Here’s the final 16 and their next matches:

Sweet 16
David DeJesus vs. Starlin Castro
Anthony Rizzo vs. Logan Watkins
Brent Lillibridge vs Michael Brenly
Edwin Maysonet vs Andy Lane (bullpen catcher)

Edwin Jackson vs. Casey Coleman
Hisanori Takahashi vs. Tim Buss (strength coach)
Jeff Samardzija vs Blake Parker
Travis Wood vs Nate Halm (video guy)

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Dodgers 11, Cubs 7

Jerry Hairston Jr. drove in three runs, including a pair on a double in the second, and Brian Barden hit a two-run single in the fifth inning to lift the Dodgers to an 11-7 win over the Cubs Wednesday.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs in the first and a run scored on a wild pitch by starter Brooks Raley. Chicago then batted around in the first against Aaron Harang. Luis Valbuena doubled to lead off and scored one batter later on Anthony Rizzo’s single. Rizzo was forced at second on Alfonso Soriano’s fielder’s choice, and Nate Schierholtz hit a RBI single to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. One out later, Welington Castillo walked to load the bases and Darwin Barney followed with a two-run single.

The Dodgers loaded the bases again in the second against Raley, who was then pulled. Hairston greeted Trey McNutt with a two-run double and Alfredo Amezaga hit a RBI single to tie the game at 4. Hairston then scored on Hanley Ramirez’s sacrifice fly.

The Dodgers loaded the bases again in the third, taking advantage of a fielding error by Scott Hairston, Jerry’s brother, who muffed Yasiel Puig’s fly ball, and Elian Herrera hit a RBI single, Jerry Hairston added a sacrifice fly, and Amezaga hit a RBI single, his third hit of the game.

A Cubs run scored on a throwing error by third baseman Omar Luna in the third, and another scored on a throwing error by shortstop Dee Gordon in the fourth.

* One of the Cubs’ highlights came in the eighth when top prospect Javier Baez knocked down Gordon with a line drive lead off single.

“I think I’ve seen balls hit as hard, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ball hit harder,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “That was like balls that [Gary] Sheffield used to hit.”

“You don’t teach the kind of bat speed Baez has,” Sveum said. “That’s special and comes around once in a while.”

Baez, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, didn’t say anything to Gordon about the rocket.

“It felt pretty good,” Baez said. “If you hit a ball like that all the time, you’re going to be great, you’re going to feel great. You just have to get on base no matter how.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Starlin Castro – UPDATE

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro had to leave Wednesday’s game because of tightness in his left hamstring and his status is day to day. In the fourth inning, Castro hit a ball to Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, who made a great stop, but then overthrew first for an error. Castro pulled up as he ran down the line, and said he felt it as he touched the first base bag. The Cubs are already thin at infield with third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters both sidelined with left quad strains.

Was Castroe scared?

“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t want to be hurt, man. I feel too good this year to start the season hurt. The trainers took care of me. I think it’s not bad.”

If Castro was scared, imagine Sveum’s first reaction when his two-time All-Star shortstop looks lame.

“Not good,” Sveum said. “It’s not a good thought because it was kind of like he pulled up quite a bit. I didn’t know if it was a knee. Most guys, they grab [the hamstring]. He was just kind of hobbling. Thank God, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal at all.”

Castro played in all 162 games last season and that’s his goal this year.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I worked too much in the Dominican, running a lot. Hopefully, it’ll be good.”

Said Sveum: “It was tight and he was jogging around in the trainer’s room after he got worked on a little bit. It was more tight than a pull or anything like that, so he’s just day to day. Thank God, nothing real major at all.”

Castro was listed in Thursday’s lineup but that’s subject to change.

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Extra bases

* Third baseman Ian Stewart, sidelined since last Thursday with a mild quad strain, was able to take part in the Cubs bunting tournament on Wednesday but lost to Anthony Rizzo, who advanced to the sweet 16 round. Stewart is spending most of his time rehabbing with Josh Vitters, who also injured his left quad on the same day. The two have been able to do agility work.

“Me and Ian are basically doing the same routine,” Vitters said. “We push each other.”

Others to advance in the bunting tournament were Logan Watkins, Chris Rusin and strength coach Tim Buss, who beat pitcher Scott Baker.

* Matt Garza could start throwing on Thursday. The pitcher, who has been shut down since Feb. 17 because of a strained left lat, passed all the tests on Wednesday. If he feels OK Thursday, he’ll be allowed to play catch. The Cubs feel Garza has enough time to prepare for Opening Day.

* Luis Valbuena led off on Wednesday, and could be an option against left-handers. David DeJesus will be the main leadoff man but Valbuena has impressed Sveum.

“[He’s a possibility] because he gives you great at-bats, he sees a lot of pitches, he can score first with a home run once in a while, he drives the ball,” Sveum said. “He’s got all the things you want in a leadoff hitter.”

* Nate Schierholtz is looking forward to getting his World Series ring from last season with the Giants. He will be the only player in the Cubs clubhouse who has not just one but two rings. He remembers the Giants being very close knit, and said that feeling began in Spring Training.

“No matter what was going on, whether we were winning or losing, we all came together,” Schierholtz said. “There were a lot of different personalities but somehow we found a way to unite and we always had the same goal, to go out and win. We took it one day at a time. It’s funny how things happen. If you can sneak into the playoffs, anything can happen. It showed.”

He said the Giants had a strong group, including Buster Posey and Matt Cain. Does he see the same in Cubs camp?

“I’m excited about this year,” he said. “Last year is last year. It doesn’t matter to me what happened last year. This year is a new year and I like what we have here and I’m excited to get the season started after a long spring.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Bunt tourney update

Logan Watkins continued to impress and strength coach Tim Buss advanced in the Cubs bunting tournament on Wednesday. Watkins ousted Scott Hairston, who tried to beat the young infielder by aiming for the 100-point spot on the field in the final round. It didn’t work. Buss beat pitcher Scott Baker to advance, and will face Chris Rusin in the next round. Watkins now faces Anthony Rizzo, who beat Ian Stewart.

Thursday’s matches include:

Nick Struck vs. Edwin Jackson
Shawn Camp vs. Casey Coleman
David DeJesus vs. Darwin Barney
Starlin Castro vs. Rafael Lopez

— Carrie Muskat