Volstad cheering for, competing against 'mates
Right-hander battling for one of two spots open in Cubs' rotation
MESA, Ariz. -- Chris Volstad is keeping an eye on his teammates to not only cheer them on, but see where he stands.
Volstad is one of the candidates for the final two spots in the Cubs' rotation, along with Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez, and gave up one hit over three scoreless innings on Thursday in the right-hander's first spring outing.
"I don't follow on the computer and go out by out," Volstad said about monitoring his teammates, "but at the end of the day I check it to see how everybody did. It's competition, but friendly competition. You always want your teammates to do well. It pushes you as a player, also."
Samardzija has made a case for a spot after his three innings on Wednesday against the Royals. He also gave up one hit, a bloop single to left, but the runner was caught stealing, and Samardzija faced the minimum.
"For a power arm, I can't remember the last time I've seen a power arm like that come into Spring Training and everything's been that crisp," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Samardzija. "He doesn't throw any scuds, everything is at least somewhere where he wants it to be. His cutter was tremendous.
"It was almost a waste of his time to drive an hour," Sveum said of the game, which was played in Surprise. "It's like he didn't even break a sweat, he was that good. It's an interesting dilemma we'll be in here in a few weeks."
Samardzija was a key piece of the Cubs' bullpen last season. If he's in the rotation, Sveum will have a hole in the 'pen.
Volstad, who struck out three of the 10 batters he faced, was the last of the rotation hopefuls to appear in a game.
"It's been a while since I've been on a mound and since I've faced hitters -- it felt like forever," said the right-hander, acquired from the Marlins for Carlos Zambrano. "I was ready to go and happy to get out there."
Volstad has spent a lot of time with pitching coach Chris Bosio talking about how to approach hitters.
"It's not individual pitches or working on anything new, just how to use the stuff I already have and a mental approach and how to use it," Volstad said of their sessions. "It's a lot of talk and not physically working, just talking working and getting inside the head and thinking about a hitter's mindset and tendencies and stuff like that."
Could Volstad fill one of the rotation spots? Samardzija is trying to claim one for himself. He arrived early in Arizona before pitchers had to report and Sveum said the right-hander is "built to go 220, 230 innings."
"It's a manager's dream to have somebody like that," he said. "The dilemma will be great in a few weeks."
It was just one outing, so it's too early to say Samardzija has locked up a spot.
"We just know there's competition between five, six, seven guys for the two spots," Sveum said. "Three weeks from now, it'll be an interesting decision."
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.