MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija is in contention for a spot in the Cubs bullpen, but not one of the vacancies in the rotation.
The right-hander was used strictly as a reliever when first called up to the big leagues in 2008, but he has bounced back and forth between starting and relieving the last two seasons. He will not get a start this spring, manager Mike Quade said Saturday.
"I think the competition for those spots at the back end [of the rotation] is plenty big enough," Quade said. "Looking at the bullpen and looking at the people we removed from the bullpen to look at stretching out, that, to me, would be counter productive [to have Samardzija start]. Never say never, but that right now is not in our plans."
The Cubs are stretching out Andrew Cashner and James Russell this spring to see if they would be better for the rotation. Cashner made his first spring start on Saturday against the Padres.
The Cubs wanted Samardzija, 26, to start in the Minor Leagues to work on developing his pitches. Last year, he was 11-3 with a 4.37 ERA in 35 games at Triple-A Iowa, including 15 starts. The other factor with Samardzija is that he is out of options, which means the Cubs need to find a place for him that works.
"As development continues, you find out what a guy is," Quade said. "So Samardzija has had plenty of innings where he's been stretched out, starting in Triple-A. ... Right now, [Samardzija] is of the mindset that he's a bullpen guy, which is good, and I'd like to keep him in that mindset."
Cashner, Wells make their case for rotation
MESA, Ariz. -- Andrew Cashner was in a mess in the first inning Saturday. The Padres had already scored and then loaded the bases with one out. This was his first start.
But Cashner, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2008 who made his big league debut last season in relief, escaped. San Diego's Nick Hundley popped up and Everth Cabrera grounded out to Starlin Castro, and Cashner pumped his arm as he ran off the field. He gave the shortstop a little glove tap, too.
"That's big outs for me right there," Cashner said. "I'm trying to make the rotation."
So is Randy Wells. The two are among the contenders for the final two openings in the Cubs' rotation, and both did what they could to enhance their chances.
Wells picked up the win with three innings of relief, giving up one unearned run on three hits. Cashner's final line was one run on three hits and two walks over two innings.
"I was excited," Cashner said of his start. "It's a big step for me -- it's my first start up here. I threw the ball a lot better today than I did the other day. My fastball command still wasn't there, but it was a lot better than it has been. Things are getting better."
He has to show that he's developed his pitches and is working on his fastball command now. Saturday's outing was something he can build on.
When approached by reporters, Wells said he was upset at his at-bat in the fourth. Apparently, he hit a home run in batting practice and expected that to carry over into the game. Instead, he flew out in the fourth.
Let's talk pitching. The right-hander, who is coming off an 8-14 season in his sophomore year in the big leagues, said he felt good about his sinker, his changeup and his slider.
"If I do that, it's a sign of good things," Wells said. "Doing that consistently is the hard part."
Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins flip-flopped Wells and Cashner as far as pitching order from their previous Cactus League outing.
"It was weird," Wells said about entering as a reliever. "I was trying to do my whole pregame routine and long tossing on the back field and stuff. I [pitched in relief] in the Minor Leagues, but it's different after two years. If you can do it, and show you can do it, I guess it doesn't hurt anything. It's kind of fun actually. You sit out there and joke around a little bit."
Carlos Silva admitted the pressure of battling for a spot in the rotation contributed to his outburst on Wednesday. Wells' record may not have been good in 2010, but he did set a personal high in innings pitched and didn't miss a start.
"For me, you can't really control it," Wells said. "You're either going to make the team or I'll be in Triple-A. I have options left. It would [stink] to go to Triple-A, but there are worse things. After a down year and having to fight for a rotation spot, it puts things in perspective."
Cashner is pretty laid back, too.
"I'm good friends with Wellsy, I'm good friends with all the guys, I'm good friends with [James Russell]," Cashner said of the left-hander who also is in the mix. "Whether it's the rotation or bullpen, it doesn't matter to me. I'm taking the right steps now toward the rotation and I'll keep going that way."
Colvin passes first test at first base
MESA, Ariz. -- Tyler Colvin handled first base well in his first start Friday. But Cubs manager Mike Quade admitted it was a little strange.
"I liked him," Quade said of the young outfielder, who is being looked at as insurance at first. "It was weird though. It had nothing to do with his performance, but you're so used to looking at him out there [in the outfield]."
Colvin was tested early as Melky Cabrera, the Royals' second batter in the first inning, hit a ball to him.
"He caught a quick grounder early that mechanically was fielded incorrectly, but good hands are good hands and he fields the ball," Quade said. "Whether it's receiving throws, it's just a learning process. He got through it error-free and had some pickoffs. He handled quite a bit outside of a bunt. It was OK. A few more days and we'll try him again."
Colvin will be the designated hitter on Sunday in Goodyear, Ariz., when the Cubs send a split-squad to face the Reds. He will likely get another start at first either Wednesday or Thursday.
Even though Colvin did OK, Quade said Jeff Baker is his No. 1 backup if Carlos Pena needs a day off at first.
"If we had to face a tough left-hander and we're looking to give Carlos a day, that might be a fit for 'Bake,'" Quade said.
Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run single in Saturday's 9-4 Cubs win over the Padres, and he is now batting .467 this spring. The key? He's healthy. Cubs manager Mike Quade has said he wants to play some of the veterans more, and Soriano is all for it. "The more I play, the more comfortable I get," Soriano said. "If I play more, I'll be more ready." ... Quade was pleased with Matt Garza's desire to stay in the game Friday after getting hit in the back by a line drive. "How about my starting pitcher yesterday? Can you teach toughness like that?" Quade said. "Second game of camp [he gets hit], he ain't going nowhere. You have a arm issue, a leg issue, a rib issue -- soft tissue in the back, and [he says], 'Just give me the ball.' He set a great example for a guy we're counting on." ... Len Kasper filled in for Cubs radio play-by-play man Pat Hughes on Saturday on WGN Radio. Kasper will team with Bob Brenly Sunday for the first Cubs TV broadcast from Spring Training on WGN TV. ... The Cubs wives will hold their 14th annual food drive to benefit Paz de Cristo on Sunday at HoHoKam Stadium. The first 500 fans who make a donation of 10 non-perishable food items or $20 will be able to randomly select a 5x7 autographed photo of a Cubs player. A silent auction also will be held during the food drive.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.