Samardzija to start Cactus opener
Cubs' rotation locks will be held back; early cuts not expected
MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija will start the Cubs' first Cactus League game on Wednesday, when they play host to the Los Angeles Dodgers at HoHoKam Park.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella said they will hold back regulars, including Carlos Zambrano, until the second week of games. Zambrano was on the mound early Saturday at Fitch Park, throwing 25 pitches to five different hitters.
"There's no reason -- there's just no hurry," Piniella said of Zambrano.
Because Spring Training is so long and because the Cubs want to stretch out pitchers like Samardzija, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman, the ones who will be in the rotation like Zambrano and Ryan Dempster won't be in the early games.
Don't expect many cuts early in camp either. The Minor League teams don't report until March 12, and their games don't start until March 19. Everything has been pushed back because of the World Baseball Classic.
"I've talked at length with our farm director [Oneri Fleita]," Piniella said, "He said, 'Lou, whatever you do, don't start cutting too soon because we have no place to place these people.'"
The starters will get about 27-28 innings this spring, which is what Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild has done in the past. With 39 Cactus League games, there's plenty of time.
"It's worked well, so there's no need to change anything," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.