03/15/12 9:52 PM ET
Scramble for bullpen roles continues
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Among the pitchers whom Cubs manager Dale Sveum cited Thursday for being considered were Marcos Mateo, Rafael Dolis, James Russell, Blake Parker, and Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo.
"There's five, six, seven guys capable of winning those spots," Sveum said. "Dolis is very impressive, being able to throw a 94-, 95-mile-an-hour ball that sinks that much and with that kind of depth. Mateo's slider is a swing-and-miss slider. Parker throws a very heavy fastball with a good slider, as well. All these guys are in the running for these spots. It's going to be interesting."
Would the Cubs consider sliding Travis Wood into the bullpen if he's not a fit for the rotation? Sveum wouldn't commit. The Cubs are looking for a long relief pitcher.
Castillo, 22, a converted infielder who came up in the Phillies organization, has shown a lot of poise.
"He acts like he's been out there before," Sveum said of the right-hander, who has not pitched higher than Class A. "He's got a fastball that doesn't seem to get squared up too much. He's interesting."
Conversation starter: Marmol rejuvenated
MESA, Ariz. -- It looks like Dale Sveum's talk with Carlos Marmol paid off.
Marmol, the Cubs closer, had struggled in his two previous outings. Sveum, the Cubs manager, met with Marmol in his office on Wednesday for a chat.
"We had a nice conversation," Marmol said Thursday. "He told me what I needed to do. It's nice to have a manager talk to you like that."
On Thursday, Marmol entered in the sixth against the D-backs and walked the first batter he faced, but then struck out the next one, and one out later, gave up a single before getting a groundout to end the inning.
He was smiling as he came into the clubhouse.
"I felt different," Marmol said. "[Sveum] talked to me yesterday and I feel different. I was myself, I calmed down a little bit. It's good the manager gives you the opportunity and he lets you know that he thinks about the players."
Past Cubs managers also have talked to Marmol, but the right-hander said Sveum's message was different.
"Every person has a different personality," Marmol said. "Now, I think he's a good guy, understands the players."
Sveum downplayed the talk.
"It was more of a conversation and confidence thing about how much he means to the team and Spring Training is what it is sometimes and don't get carried away with it and just keep working to get better, that's all," Sveum said.
The Cubs were pleased to see Marmol get the last out of the inning on a sinker using a new grip that pitching coach Chris Bosio suggested.
"Communication is huge," Sveum said. "It's just a matter of treating these guys like human beings and understanding they're human. No matter how much money they make or the problems they have, whether it's the top guy or the 25th guy on the roster, they're all human beings and they're going to fail. There's so much negativity in this game you have to give everybody confidence. These guys are Major League players and they've had lots of success and sometimes they doubt that ability to get big league hitters or hit in the big leagues or whatever it might be."
The Cubs need Marmol to get on track after leading the National League in blown saves last season. His teammates support him.
"It's Spring Training in Arizona," pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "In Spring Training, there will be a lot of those struggles. The ball flies, the infields are fast. Sometimes you see the numbers and you look at them as struggling, but I think the way the ball is coming out of his hand is the most important part. I think he'll be just fine."
Marmol did throw a couple sliders on Thursday but said he focused on his two-seam fastball. Asked if he's set any goals, the right-hander said he'd like to win, then admitted he wants to make the All-Star team again.
When the Cubs play the Cardinals for the first time in the regular season on April 13, St. Louis was expected to hold its ring ceremony to celebrate winning the 2011 World Series.
"That's going to be hard [to watch]," Marmol said. "The ring, that's what we're looking for. We're jealous last year with St. Louis winning. We're trying to get that ring."
DeWitt out after HBP; Barney, Stewart scratched
MESA, Ariz. -- Blake DeWitt was hit on the right hand with a pitch on Thursday and his status was uncertain, while infielders Darwin Barney and Ian Stewart were both scratched with minor injuries.
DeWitt may be the most serious of the three Cubs. He was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning by Rockies reliever Christian Freidrich.
The Cubs had split-squad games against the Rockies in Scottsdale and the D-backs here. Stewart was to have started at third base against his former team, the Rockies, but was sidelined because of a sore right quad. He was day to day.
"It's a little twinge, tightness," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It'll be another two to three days hopefully. There was nothing on the MRI that showed anything."
Barney was to have started at second base against the D-backs, but felt some tightness in his left side during batting practice. He was held out of the game as a precautionary measure. His status also is day to day.
"It doesn't seem all that bad," Sveum said. "He was still able to take swings and take all his ground balls. He said he felt it a couple days ago. It doesn't seem to be a big concern. If it was during the season, he'd definitely be playing."
For T. Wood, slower, steadier is the way to go
MESA, Ariz. -- Travis Wood knows he needs to slow things down. The Cubs have about three more weeks to figure it out.
Wood, 25, served up six runs -- five earned -- on three hits, two walks and hit a batter in one-third of an inning in the Cubs' 10-2 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday.
"His personality is built that way," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's a very hyper guy. I know he doesn't talk a whole lot, but on the mound and the way he works, he's a guy going 100 miles a minute all the time. He's just got to slow down a little bit, but at the same time he's still learning how to pitch differently than he has in the past to get big league hitters out on a consistent basis."
Acquired by the Reds in December in the Sean Marshall deal, Wood is coming off a season in which he split time between Cincinnati and Triple-A Louisville. He was 6-6 with a 4.84 ERA in 22 games with the Reds and 2-3 with a 5.33 ERA in 10 Minor League starts.
The problem on Wednesday was a lack of command.
"He just kept just missing," Sveum said. "The Brewers did a good job of laying off and he couldn't get back in the counts and obviously he had to throw strikes and some balls got hit hard. Travis is a guy right now who is learning how to pitch instead of just bullying his way through the lineup. I think it's going to take a little more time for him to learn how to pitch."
The left-hander is competing for one of the two openings in the Cubs rotation along with Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez, Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija.
Cubs complete Epstein compensation
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs will send Minor League pitcher Aaron Kurcz to the Red Sox to complete their part of the compensation package for Theo Epstein.
Kurcz was the Cubs' 10th-round pick in 2010 and went 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA in 32 games last season with Class A Daytona. He struck out 139 over 109 2/3 innings and walked 45.
The Cubs sent pitcher Chris Carpenter to the Red Sox on Feb. 21 and, at that time, the two teams also agreed to exchange Minor League players to be named. The Red Sox still owe the Cubs a Minor League player to complete the transaction.
Epstein had one year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox at the time he joined the Cubs in late October as president of baseball operations.
The Cubs trimmed the spring roster by seven on Thursday. The team optioned pitchers Jeff Beliveau, Alberto Cabrera, and John Gaub and infielder Josh Vitters to Triple-A Iowa. Infielder Junior Lake and outfielder Matt Szczur were optioned to Double-A Tennessee, and catcher Jason Jaramillo was assigned to the Minor League camp. With the moves, the Cubs spring camp roster is at 48.
Forget the talk about Alfonso Soriano leading off. He'll hit third, fourth or fifth. "He is our one bona-fide hitter who has put up big numbers before," Sveum said. "He's swinging the bat great this spring. I don't see him hitting anywhere else but 3-4-5. He's proven it. We don't have any other proven 3-4-5 hitters in this lineup. He'll be in one of those spots."
The Cubs have split-squad games in Las Vegas this weekend against the Rangers. Samardzija will start Saturday and Volstad on Sunday in Las Vegas, while Paul Maholm will go Saturday against the Athletics in Phoenix and Andy Sonnanstine will start Sunday in Mesa against the White Sox.
A baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig will be featured in the live auction at the Dempster Foundation Casino Night on May 9 in Chicago. The baseball was donated by the Sutherland family, and obtained from the Heritage Auction Galleries. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Children's Memorial Hospital's new state-of-the-art facility, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. Proceeds from the event will go to the Ryan Dempster Foundation.
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.