Eager Cubs report early to Arizona
Kadokura, Gaudin, Soto, others look to get head start on spring
MESA, Ariz. -- Ken Kadokura, a 13-year veteran of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, threw about 50 pitches off the mound on Thursday. Chad Gaudin threw his share, as well. Both are hoping the early work helps them secure spots on the Cubs' roster this year.
Pitchers and catchers officially report on Friday to Fitch Park, but several Cubs got a head start the day before, including Geovany Soto, Kevin Gregg, Jeff Samardzija, Neal Cotts, Kevin Hart, Randy Wells, Jake Fox, Koyie Hill, and Wellington Castillo.
Kadokura, 35, played for four different teams in Japan, including the Chunichi Dragons, when he was a teammate of Chicago outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. He's a long shot to make the Cubs. Gaudin, on the other hand, has a better chance. The right-hander could be back in the bullpen or he could land the vacant fifth spot in the rotation, vying for the opening along with Samardzija and Sean Marshall.
No one prepped Gaudin about the possibility of getting back in the rotation. He's made 50 starts, including 34 in 2007 with Oakland when he was 11-13 with a 4.42 ERA.
"I don't really come into Spring Training looking to do this or do that," Gaudin said Thursday. "I just look to come in healthy and ready to get out and go a long season and help the team I'm on, however I can do that.
"The decision making of what you're going to do and where you're going to be is left to the guys with the brains in the front office," Gaudin said. "I can't control that. All I can control is to come in and pitch good and do what I've been doing my whole life and work on things in Spring Training that are not strong points for me, and that's it."
Gaudin didn't alter his offseason conditioning. He's always trained to be a starter.
"You can always back off," Gaudin said. "You can't add to. I just trained myself that I'm going to come in and have to throw. I train myself for a long season. If it's as a reliever, it's as a reliever. If it's as a starter, the more the better."
Friday's first day will give players a chance to find their lockers, meet new teammates, and get some of the kinks out. Cotts and Samardzija arrived in Arizona more than one week ago, eager to see some sunshine after Chicago's brutal winter.
Only seven players remain from the Opening Day roster of 2007, which was Lou Piniella's first season in Chicago. The Cubs are coming off their second straight National League Central crown, and have added Gregg, Aaron Heilman, Luis Vizcaino; outfielders Milton Bradley and Joey Gathright; infielder Aaron Miles; and catcher Paul Bako.
Piniella has a few issues to deal with. Is Carlos Marmol ready to be the closer? Or is Gregg better suited for the job? Who will be the backup catcher, Hill or Bako? And, who will be the fifth starter? Marshall? Gaudin? Samardzija?
"I don't look at it as competition," Gaudin said. "I look at it as I have to go out and do my job, and let things fall into place."
The Cubs officially get started Friday.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.