Sveum, players to compete in bunting tourney
Wood says he'll easily beat manager in opening round
MESA, Ariz. -- The bracket is up and there's been plenty of trash talking. It's time for the Cubs' inaugural match play bunting tournament to begin.
First-round action with the pitchers will get under way Thursday at Fitch Park on a half field, marked with a grid that gives points from 10 to 40, depending on the bunt's location. There are 64 entries, including Cubs manager Dale Sveum and strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss.
"We had to get it to 64 -- we had 63 guys in camp, so I said, 'Just throw myself in,'" Sveum said Wednesday. "Losing [Chris] Carpenter [on Tuesday] to the Red Sox, we put 'Bussy' in his spot."
Carpenter was dealt to the Red Sox as part of the compensation package for Cubs president Theo Epstein, so the right-hander loses his chance at the prize.
Sveum will face pitcher Kerry Wood, who says he took four or five swings last year.
"It's a layup," Wood said. "I should get right through that one, no problem."
What Wood may not know is Sveum and Buss have been practicing on the half field.
Sveum started the tourney when he managed in the Minor Leagues with the Pirates.
"I always remembered it and always wanted to do something like that if I took over as manager," Sveum said. "I thought it would be fun for the team and break things up a little bit and have a little fun with it. It'll be fun as we go along, especially when we get to the sweet 16."
Sveum had nothing to do with the seedings.
"I'm a 16 [seed]," he said of the bracket, "and I'm not a 16 seed."
Wood picked Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells as early favorites since they've had more at-bats as starters. There will be a bracket for pitchers and another for position players. The top pitcher and position player will then square off in the final.
"It's a good way to keep it lively," Wood said. "Bunting gets very monotonous and covering first and all that stuff, so it's nice to throw us a little bone and make it a competition and get the work done at the same time."
Speedy outfielder Tony Campana has been boasting about his bunting skills, and will face catcher Steve Clevenger in the first round. Both infielder Jeff Baker and outfielder Reed Johnson have tired of the talk. They predict Campana will be eliminated in the first round because it's not a bunt-and-run event, just straight bunting.
"You can't run," Johnson said.
"I know," Campana said. "I think I'll be OK. Clevenger, I'm not worried about him that much. I'm not worried until the third round. I think that's when the challenges start coming. If somebody wants to beat me, that's good. That means I have to worry and they're going to try really hard.
"I'm kind of putting a bull's-eye on my back by talking so much trash," Campana said. "If everybody's talking about me, they know I'm dangerous."
Pitcher Chris Rusin was a little nervous. His first-round opponent is Buss. He can't lose to the strength coach.
"The pressure's on me," Rusin said.
Wood willing to fill any role asked of him
MESA, Ariz. -- Kerry Wood will be the Cubs' primary setup pitcher, he'll sub for closer Carlos Marmol, or he'll relieve in the fourth inning if needed.
"Whatever they want me to do," Wood said Wednesday. "I just come in and get guys out, whether it's the seventh inning or eighth inning or fifth inning, whatever they need. I'll go in there and get my guys out and give the ball to the next person."
On Tuesday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wood will be his primary setup pitcher, rather than have a lefty setup man and a right-handed setup option. The Cubs lost their prime left-handed setup pitcher when they dealt Sean Marshall to the Reds this offseason.
Wood has been a starter, a closer and now excelled as a setup man, appearing in 55 games last season with the Cubs. He did pick up one save in seven opportunities last season, but has not been a team's closer since 2009, when he took over the role with the Indians.
Can he sub for Marmol if necessary?
"He doesn't need too many days," Wood said of the closer. "He's pitched just about every day for the last two years."
Marmol is coming off a tough season in which he led the National League with 10 blown saves. Wood hasn't brought up the subject.
"I'm sure that's been about every conversation he's had with everybody else this spring," Wood said. "There will be a time, I'm sure."
Pitchers and catchers have been in camp since Sunday, and position players report on Thursday. Was Wood ready to face live hitters?
"No, not yet," he said. "I like the catcher there right now. I'll be ready to go in another week or so."
Lefty John Gaub, sidelined with back spasms, was expected to take part in on-field drills on Thursday. Gaub, who felt the spasms while weightlifting, said he hoped to start throwing.
Right now, there's no platoon setup in Cubs manager Dale Sveum's lineup. He does plan on using Jeff Baker against left-handed pitchers and take advantage of his versatility. Baker can sub in right field for David DeJesus, at first for Bryan LaHair, or at third for Ian Stewart if necessary.
"All that stuff is day to day, and how they're swinging at the time and what they've been doing at the time," Sveum said about the lineup. "Not every lefty is the same, either. If a guy's swinging the bat good, you still need those guys in the lineup."
Baker batted .314 against lefties last season compared to .200 against right-handers, while DeJesus hit .174 against lefties, .265 against right-handers, and Stewart has a career .223 average against lefties, .240 versus right-handers.
"There's no platoon situation in mind at all for anybody right now," Sveum said.
The Cubs are in the process of finalizing the plans for the new Spring Training facility, to be built in east Mesa. No date has been set for groundbreaking, but the plan is to have the facility ready for 2014 Spring Training.
The only position players yet to appear at Fitch Park are Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro, non-roster invitees Blake DeWitt and Jae-Hoon Ha. Position players must report by Thursday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Friday. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts also was expected in camp Friday to address the team.
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.