Barney doesn't miss beat with two hits in first
In first game since Tuesday, infielder stays hot at plate
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It had been nearly a week since he played, but Darwin Barney was back in the lineup against the Mariners on Monday, hoping he could carry over the momentum he built through the first couple of weeks of the Cactus League.
Barney last played Tuesday, extending his spring hitting streak to seven games, then was scratched from a split-squad game against the D-backs on Thursday with a sore side.
"It was just during batting practice," said Barney, who collected two hits in the Cubs' seven-run first inning Monday. "I felt it a little bit. It was enough to tell somebody. I'm not the kind of guy who likes to let people know when things are lingering.
"The MRIs came up negative, so that's good. "A little bit of a strain in there. Maybe a little liquid. We're just being a little careful. I'm good. Ready to go."
Barney took a couple of days off, then started cardio workouts Saturday, along with "twisting rotational" exercises before returning to baseball activity Sunday.
"I got in the cage and started throwing a little bit and doing all that [Sunday]," Barney said.
Barney has hit in every game he's played, and entering Monday, he was hitting .417 (8-for-19) with three doubles, a triple, and seven RBIs. The short absence balanced with careful attention to the games he's missed had Barney confident he can get his swing back in rhythm without missing a beat.
"You're watching games every day, so that's your visualization right there," Barney said. "It was only a few days, so hopefully your timing's there. And if it's not, take a few at-bats and get back into it."
Lefty Wood's spring struggles continue
PEORIA, Ariz. -- With the competition for the fifth spot in the Cubs' rotation one of the focal points of the last two weeks of Spring Training, left-hander Travis Wood needed an eye-opening third start to distinguish himself. At the very least, he needed a solid outing.
Wood got neither. He entered Monday's game against the Mariners with a 20.25 Cactus League ERA and left after two-plus innings with it rising to 25.07. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks. He allowed three homers, including back-back shots in the third. He left the ballpark soon after without talking to the press.
"It looked like it was coming out of his hand better," manager Dale Sveum said. "But still, it's not the full package, to be able to get through big league hitters using the changeup and throwing it for strikes and a breaking ball. I still don't think his cutter is where it needs to be and where I've seen it before. But I thought the life was there on some pitches. Just another unfortunate outing."
Wood, 25, showed promise through parts of two seasons with the Reds, compiling an 11-10 record with a 4.18 ERA through 35 starts. But he has not put it together for the Cubs.
"Just keep plugging away," Sveum said, referencing the plan for the struggling southpaw. "You build him, you keep throwing him out wherever he's scheduled, whether it's a game or a Minor League game. From here, it's about getting confidence and getting people out."
Stewart held out, likely to play on Tuesday
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ian Stewart is one bad weather day away from being back on the field.
The Cubs' new third baseman last played Wednesday against the Brewers, knocking a run-scoring double and walking in two trips to the plate. The next day, he was scratched with a tight quad.
After running on a treadmill Saturday, Stewart was going to do running drills on the field Sunday and start Monday, but rainy weather across the valley Sunday kept Stewart from working out as planned.
"He'll probably play [Tuesday]," manager Dale Sveum said. "I haven't talked to the trainer to see how things went this morning. If things went well, I was going to DH him today to have a couple at bats when that left-hander [Jason Vargas] comes out of the game.
"I don't even know if he's here. Maybe it didn't go so well or somebody missed my plans. As long as everything went well today he'll probably be playing [Tuesday]."
Stewart is hitting .333 (5-for-15) in six Cactus League games.
Mather strong candidate for final bench spot
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum has whittled the roster choices to a pair, as far as position players go.
"Probably just basically our backup catcher and that final spot on the bench," Sveum said.
He spoke highly of Joe Mather as a candidate for the final bench spot. Mather, 29, was hitting .379 (11-for-29) with two homers, seven RBIs and three steals entering Monday, and he knocked a two-run single in his first at-bat of a 12-7 victory over the Mariners.
"I'd be lying if I said it was real close," Sveum said. "The guy's doing everything he possibly can. Hitting the ball out of the ballpark. He's hit all kinds of pitching so far. He's hit velocity, he's hit sidearmers, sidearm right-handers. Played a heck of a center field in Vegas. He can steal you a base. It's been pretty impressive, and he suits our lineup with all the corner guys being left-handed."
The toughest decision may be between Wellington Castillo, 24, and Steve Clevenger, 26, for the backup catcher spot behind Geovany Soto, 29. Though both have limited Major League experience, they have hit well in the Cactus League and are solid behind the plate. Castillo is hitting .318 (7-for-22) with a homer and two RBIs, and Clevenger is swinging at .333 (7-for-21) with two homers and three RBIs. Castillo started Monday, picking off a runner in the fifth and going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Clevenger came in for Castillo in the sixth and threw out Chone Figgins trying to steal second in his first inning behind the dish.
"All these decisions are nice when you have that much completion," Sveum said. "I don't think I've ever been around so many good catchers in the game. We get to choose from two guys that could play every day in the big leagues."
Sveum expects to have things pretty well in place by next Monday, 10 days before Opening Day.
"We'll probably pair down some here after the off-day [Wednesday]," Sveum said. "A week from now, you probably pretty much [have] everything done. You won't have it etched in stone, but you'll have it pretty much locked down one way or the other. There might be maybe a flip of the coin type thing, but in our heads, it will pretty well be done by next week."
Windy conditions in 'B' game quite familiar
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Cubs played a "B" game Monday morning against the Indians on the back fields in Goodyear, where the wide open plains were windy and cold. In other words, it felt like home.
Randy Wells pitched three innings, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out two in a 6-5 Cubs loss.
"You try not to put too much on it, because the conditions aren't that well," manager Dale Sveum said. "On the other hand, you have to pitch in those same conditions in Chicago, if not worse.
"Wells actually was fairly sharp down in the zone. He got the outs when he needed to. [Cristian] Guzman, trying to get the guy over, hooked the ball out of the park on him. Other than that, he didn't give up any runs. He got out of some big jams with bases-loaded ground-ball double plays. It wasn't bad by no means."
Jeff Beliveau also pitched a pair of innings, one good and one in which he struggled, according to Sveum.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo was 1-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.