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03/24/12 8:31 PM ET

Volstad's bid for Cubs rotation looks strong

MESA, Ariz. -- Dale Sveum planned on revealing the Cubs starters this week, but word leaked on Saturday that Chris Volstad appears to have locked up a spot.

When Sveum met with the media early Saturday, he said there were two openings in the rotation, and that Volstad, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez and Travis Wood were in contention. But during a radio interview prior to the game, the Cubs manager said there was only one vacancy. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm are set, and apparently so is Volstad, who threw 65 pitches over six innings in a Minor League game at Fitch Park on Saturday.

When asked later by Chicago media to clarify his comments, Sveum said "nothing's etched in stone," and repeated he'll announce the final five on Wednesday.

"Thinking about [the radio interview] now, I said, obviously, if [Volstad] keeps throwing the ball the way he's throwing the ball, it'll be hard to keep him out of the rotation," Sveum said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out."

However, Sveum did say in the interview with former general manager Jim Bowden on Sirius that there was only one opening and Volstad was set.

"I don't see how anything could change there," Sveum said in the interview, complimenting Volstad and Maholm on their command.

Volstad hadn't heard either the interview or from Sveum. Has the right-hander done enough this spring?

"I feel I have," said Volstad, has given up one run on seven hits over 10 innings in his three Cactus League outings. "I've tried to be efficient, getting ground balls, and I feel I've put in the hard work. It's not like I can control the decision, but I feel pretty good where I'm at right now."

Saturday was a big day for Wood. The left-hander had not gone beyond 2 1/3 innings, and in his last outing against the Mariners, he served up seven runs on seven hits and two walks over two innings. On Saturday, he was charged with three runs on five hits over 3 2/3 innings.

"We have to get him through some clean innings to get some confidence back," Sveum said before the game.

Wood, acquired from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal, said he was finally able to slow down the pace.

"I wanted to come in and really show them, and obviously, I didn't do that," Wood said of his early outings. "That might have had a little bit to do with it."

It was simply a matter of relaxing.

"I'm a guy who wants to keep going, keep going, keep going and it ends up getting faster and faster and faster instead of the same pace," Wood said. "I just have to try to relax, and take it one pitch at a time."

He's not anxiously waiting for the final word.

"No," Wood said. "They'll make their decisions and whatever will be, will be."

Wells pitched in relief on Saturday against the Padres, giving up one hit over 1 2/3 innings. Sveum said the right-hander will start in his next turn. Sveum is familiar with Wells, who has faced the Brewers in 11 games over his career.

"Seeing him in person the last few years, he made pitches when he had to against a pretty good lineup," Sveum said.

Wells wasn't sure where he'll be penciled in.

"There's obviously competition going on," Wells said. "If you start getting caught up in that, it makes it tougher to pitch. I just go out there and try to do my best."

Wells has not given up a run over 7 1/3 innings in three Cactus League games. He feels he's done enough to start.

"I'd be disappointed," Wells said of his reaction if he isn't named a starter. "Three years in the rotation, to have to go to the bullpen -- but it could be a new challenge and something exciting."

Lessons come out of Samardzija's tough start

MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija had a rough outing on Friday, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he hoped it was a good learning experience for the right-hander.

Samardzija gave up seven runs on 10 hits over four innings against the Rockies. He had given up three runs on six hits over 10 innings in his three previous Cactus League outings.

"He probably learned a lesson yesterday," Sveum said. "You can't throw 90 percent of all your pitches 91 mph and above. You better have unbelievable location if you do that. Obviously, his location was not so good and up in the zone.

"It doesn't matter how hard your cutter is or how hard you throw, if you're up in the zone against big league hitters, it's going to get hit," Sveum said. "You've got to control bat speed, and we really didn't do that too well yesterday. It was hard, hard, hard, hard, and the location is not there."

Samardzija is expected to make at least two more starts this spring. Sveum has said he'll finalize the rotation by Wednesday; Travis Wood, Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad are the other contenders for the two openings.

"Performance is always important when you're vying for a spot in the rotation," Sveum said. "It's a learning process, too, sometimes. I think he got away with what built his confidence. He didn't pitch inside yesterday at all. He got no ground balls, no broken-bat hits or balls put in play with broken bats."

But asked if the one bad outing would open the window for another starting candidate, Sveum said he'll wait and see.

"It's probably the best thing that happened to him, to tell you the truth, to understand that when we're facing these big league lineups, 'I've got to do this -- I've got to do this on a more consistent basis,'" Sveum said. "'I've got to throw my slider for a strike, I've got to throw it for a strike early in the count, I've got to throw my split, I've got to use all my pitches.' You can't be three, four mph on 90 percent of your pitches. Otherwise, you have to have unbelievable location."

Sveum considering Rule 5 pick Castillo for 'pen

MESA, Ariz. -- Rule 5 Draft pick Lendy Castillo has opened some eyes and could make the jump from Class A to the big leagues with the Cubs.

"He's done as well as anybody in camp," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the right-hander. "He's showed a lot of poise."

On Saturday against the Padres, Castillo walked two and struck out one of the five batters he faced. He has fanned 10 over 8 2/3 innings. The only glitches, Sveum said, have been Castillo's defensive work. He's also missed some signs. But the pitches and his poise have been impressive.

"For a young kid, he hasn't had any big hiccups as far as throwing the ball all over the place," Sveum said. "As soon as he throws a ball, he'll come back with a strike. He'll throw a slider for a strike when he's behind in the count."

James Russell also appears to have secured a spot, and Sveum said they may break camp with one lefty in the bullpen.

"We could go with two," Sveum said. "We could go with none -- who knows? There's no doubt we could just go with one."

He was kidding -- sort of -- about not having a lefty.

"Teams have been pretty good without one," Sveum said. "I'm sure it's not going to happen. We never really had one last year in Milwaukee when we won 96 games. That's just talking. James Russell has thrown the ball well, and I'm sure he'll be fine and on the team. There's times when you go with no lefties, when you have other guys with sinkers and guys who can get the ball moving on both sides of the plate."

The Cubs want to see more of Frankie De La Cruz, claimed off waivers from the Brewers.

"He's a very durable guy who can pitch a lot, and he's got a good changeup," Sveum said. "His thing is just throw strikes."

Sore elbow to keep Mateo out of Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs reliever Marcos Mateo, pulled from Thursday's game because of soreness in his right elbow, has been told to rest for at least 10 days and will then be re-examined.

"Opening Day is obviously out of the question for him," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Mateo, who was vying for a spot in the bullpen.

Mateo underwent an MRI on Thursday, and the results were negative. The pitcher said Saturday that the discomfort is similar to what he felt last season. Mateo was shut down last July 5 because of soreness in his elbow, and he missed the rest of the season. On Thursday in Surprise, Mateo walked the first batter he faced, then threw two pitches before he was pulled.

Kerry Wood does have a spot secured in the Cubs' bullpen, but he has not pitched since last Sunday. Sveum said there are no issues, and the right-hander will get a couple more outings before the team breaks camp.

Wood, the Cubs' primary setup pitcher, did have some issues with his back this spring.

"The back always flares up once in a while," Sveum said. "That's not a concern now. He's fine."

Jaramillo grateful for HOFer Williams' tips

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has been getting some much appreciated help this spring from Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

Williams, 73, will come down to the batting cages early at HoHoKam Park and also watch batting practice before games.

"He sees little things in hitters that he tells me," Jaramillo said of Williams. "He obviously had a great approach mentally, and I try to learn from him.

"He's kind of quiet," Jaramillo said of the soft-spoken former outfielder, who played for the Cubs from 1959-74. "He'll say, 'I see this, I see that.' I feel he deserves credit for wanting to help me and telling me little things he sees from hitters and his mentality. I'm always asking, 'What were you thinking here? What was your approach?' He's so generous in telling me."

Williams was tutored by Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, and he'll pass along tips to Jaramillo.

"He's always saying, they used to tell him this, tell him that," Jaramillo said. "I'll say, 'Wow, that's awesome.' That's a Hall of Famer, too."

And Williams, who had a sweet swing from the left side, works with all of the players.

"He is a part of this and he has helped me a lot," Jaramillo said.

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.