03/06/12 8:00 PM EST
Cubs keeping a close eye on Lake
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"He's a little raw defensively," Sveum said of the 21-year-old infielder. "You can see things he has to get better at there. He's a real tall shortstop and does everything real tall. He needs to get a little lower.
"The guy's a specimen," Sveum said. "He has some kind of athletic body. He's got to just keep playing. He's a guy who needs at-bats in games and stuff like that. That's a pretty good talent coming."
Lake is 6-foot-2, and is taller than Starlin Castro, the Cubs' incumbent shortstop. Could Lake move to third?
"I think he's one of those athletes who can probably play anywhere on the field," Sveum said. "When all that stuff comes up, depending on what need we have position-wise, I think he's capable athletically of doing anything we want him to do."
Volstad working with Sutcliffe on approach
MESA, Ariz. -- If Chris Volstad has a good season, give former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe credit for steering the 6-foot-8 right-hander in the right direction.
Sutcliffe, an extra instructor this spring, has helped Volstad with his grip as well as his approach to pitching.
"A lot of it's just attitude, but [we've worked on] a couple pitches, also," Volstad said of his sessions with Sutcliffe. "Nothing new, but how to use different things and let guys know it's the pitcher's plate and stuff like that. We've been working on things and talking. It's been a big help."
Volstad, acquired from the Marlins for Carlos Zambrano, will make his Cubs debut Thursday when he faces the Mariners at HoHoKam Park. He's competing for one of the two openings in the rotation, but he knows all about that.
"Luckily, with the Marlins, I was kind of used to that with a lot of pitchers coming into camp," Volstad said. "I try not to look into that or worry too much about that because it doesn't really matter -- I still need to go out and perform. I'm just working on those things in the bullpen, and when my day comes, I want to go out there and show who I really am and the pitcher who I can be. That's really all I focus on.
"You start worrying about or focus on too many different things at one time and it distracts you," he said. "I'm just trying to keep it simple and worry about doing my job when I'm out there."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said it's been tough for Volstad because he's had to learn on the job in the big leagues. He was drafted in 2005 and made his big league debut in '08.
"He needs to learn what he can do and get quicker outs with the movement he has on his fastball and the length he has through the strike zone with his height," Sveum said. "[He has to learn] more pitch sequences, understanding how to move the ball inside a lot more with his fastball and movement. He had a game against [the Brewers] last year and a pretty decent lineup and he went right through them pretty easy by pitching inside and broke a lot of bats and did a great job."
On Sept. 23, Volstad gave up one run on six hits over seven innings against the Brewers and did not get a decision.
Sveum has seen Sutcliffe help other pitchers, and Volstad has definitely benefited.
"There's a select few guys he's taken under his wing," Sveum said of Sutcliffe. "He can relate to big tall guys. Sut didn't have the movement that Volstad has, but just getting him to understand pitch sequences and how to get big league hitters out is his big thing. Travis Wood, too. They both got to the big leagues and didn't pitch a ton of innings in the Minor Leagues and now you have to understand how to get big league hitters out."
Soriano feeling good with swing, timing
MESA, Ariz. -- In the two games he's played in this spring, Alfonso Soriano has led off and batted fourth in the Cubs' lineup. It's not clear where the left fielder will end up, but what is certain is how good he's feeling.
On Tuesday, he was the designated hitter against the Rockies and hit a leadoff homer in the second, a leadoff double in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth as the Cubs romped, 11-4.
"I'm a little surprised," Soriano said. "It's my second game and I'm feeling good with my swing and with my timing. It makes me feel good. Usually it takes 20, 25 at-bats before I feel good, but I felt good in the second game."
The more at-bats the better, Soriano said.
"I want to show the fans, my teammates and the coaches and everybody that I'm here to play the game," he said. "It doesn't matter if I'm batting leadoff, DH, I'm here to do my job."
So he doesn't care where he hits?
"Not really," Soriano said. "I prepare in my mind to be 100 percent and try to help the team win. It doesn't matter batting leadoff, fourth, fifth. It just depends on the manager and what he thinks."
All Cubs manager Dale Sveum will say is that he wants to keep Soriano, 36, healthy, which means days off after night games and also after road trips.
"It's vital to keep those legs as fresh as possible so he can do things like he did today," Sveum said.
Jeff Samardzija will make his first start Wednesday against the Royals. The right-hander has been impressive this spring.
"There's nothing not to like," manager Dale Sveum said of Samardzija, who is vying for one of the openings in the rotation. "His command is probably as good as I've ever seen from a hard-throwing guy in live BP. His command of his cutter, his fastball, his slider, keeping the ball down, keeping the ball to his glove side, arm side, wherever he wants to get it, he's pretty much been on target. He's on a mission and he's been as good as you can imagine right now up to this point."
While Samardzija is pitching in Surprise, Paul Maholm will start in a "B" game in Mesa on Wednesday. Maholm was slowed this spring by the flu.
Sveum was ousted in the bunting tournament on Tuesday by Maholm, who advanced to the final eight. Others to advance on Tuesday were Randy Wells, David DeJesus and Starlin Castro. Maholm will face Wells in the next round, while DeJesus and Castro will square off. Other final eight matchups are Jeff Beliveau vs. Casey Coleman and Adrian Cardenas vs. Welington Castillo.
Geovany Soto remains on track to get into a game by Saturday. He's been sidelined with a strained groin. However, Jason Jaramillo, one of the candidates for the backup catcher job, has been hindered by sore quads and has yet to play in a game. Castillo started on Tuesday and Michael Brenly was the backup.
Sveum picked up his first win Tuesday when the Cubs beat the Rockies, 11-4. They've now outscored their opponents, 28-24, in three games.
"It's better than being 0-3," Sveum said of the win. "You score eight, nine, 10, 11 runs all the time, you're bound to win."
One of the keys was the defensive play by the outfielders, who had to deal with a tough sun and swirling wind.
"I don't think anybody realizes how tough those catches were unless you've played here and you've played the outfield, especially in the later innings when the sun gets lower," Sveum said.
Third baseman Ian Stewart also shined on two plays, and Sveum complemented his "athleticism and calmness."
"It's just awareness," Sveum said of Stewart. "You can't teach that kind of stuff."
Brett Jackson hit solo homers in each of the intrasquad games, and belted a three-run homer on Tuesday. Is there a chance the highly touted outfielder could make the big league team?
"I don't think you want a kid like that to not play," Sveum said. "He hasn't played a full year in Triple-A. He's either going to make the team and play every day or he's going to be in Triple-A."
Sveum likes his bench with Blake DeWitt, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker. There appears to be one spot open, and one candidate is Joe Mather, who can play the corners, the outfield and has power.
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.