02/22/2013 7:00 PM ET
Raley looking forward to next opportunity
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Brooks Raley got the proverbial cup of coffee with the Cubs last season, making five starts. He did pick up his first win on Aug. 18 against the Reds.
But that was last year.
"It's obviously a game of adjustments," said the left-hander, who spent most of 2012 with Triple-A Iowa, making 14 starts. "I definitely had some things to think about when I went home. I'm ready to go and I feel good."
On Friday, Raley threw two innings in the Cubs' intrasquad game, giving up five hits, one walk and striking out one. It's all part of the process. He spent the offseason working on his command and looking forward to the next opportunity.
"The game hasn't changed anything being up here," Raley said. "When you make mistakes, they're bigger. You give up a three-run home run or give up a bases-clearing double, that's when you lose games. I have to make pitches in those counts. I'm trying not to get to those counts, but when you do, you have to make quality pitches."
Versatile Valbuena continues to impress
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum knows Luis Valbuena can play third base. This spring, the Cubs want to see if Valbuena can play the outfield, second and short, too.
Valbuena was called up to the Cubs from Triple-A Iowa in mid-June last year, and then played in 90 games, taking over at third base for Ian Stewart, who was sidelined after wrist surgery. But Valbuena didn't stop. He played in the Venezuelan winter league, with his first game on Oct. 24, and that season ended in early January after the playoffs.
Then it was time to report to Spring Training.
"I had two, three weeks off after the season," Valbuena said on Friday. "I don't feel tired or anything. I feel great."
He should. Sveum has raved about Valbuena's defensive skills and said this spring that third base is Stewart's job to win. Could Valbuena be the Cubs starting third baseman?
"Like I said, it was [Stewart's] job to win, not to lose," Sveum said. "Things might change, because who knows when Stewart will be back to play. I know Valbuena can play third. He doesn't need to play third to get his at-bats.
"The guy had a good winter ball, and obviously put a good swing on a ball today," Sveum said after Friday's intrasquad game, in which Valbuena hit a two-run home run. "I'm not too concerned about Valbuena. I need to see him everywhere. If things work out that way, then yeah, he'll be playing third base quite a bit. First half of spring, you'll see him a lot more at other positions."
Stewart's status is uncertain after injuring his left quad running the bases on Thursday.
In Venezuela, Valbuena hit .306 with six home runs and 15 doubles in 51 games.
"Everything went well," Valbuena said of his offseason. "I'm focused on hitting this year. I did my routine like I did during the season here. That's what I want to try to do here, too."
It's quite a jump for a player who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays last April 4.
"I feel great because [Sveum] wanted me to be here," Valbuena said. "That's why I worked 100 percent more. Every pitch, every at-bat for me was very important."
Even though he knows he has Sveum's backing, Valbuena isn't going to take it easy. He will likely play second, third and even some outfield.
"I have to keep working," he said.
Fujikawa has uneven intrasquad outing
MESA, Ariz. -- Kyuji Fujikawa made his Cubs debut Friday in an intrasquad game, walking one of the four batters he faced.
"I'm sure he'll tell you it's been better," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Japanese pitcher's outing. "It wasn't all that sharp today. His [split-finger pitch] was probably coming out of his hand as a ball right away, which is why he didn't get any swings and misses. He mixed in a couple breaking balls.
"For the first time on the mound and all that, it was OK," Sveum said. "I'm sure he'll tell you he didn't have the command he'd like to have."
Fujikawa, a former closer with Hanshin who signed a two-year contract with the Cubs, said it was a start.
"I think it's more results," he said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "I was able to come back with a zero [runs allowed in the inning]. I'm satisfied with that for now."
Not only does the right-hander have to make the adjustment from Japan to the U.S., but also to Arizona, which isn't exactly pitcher-friendly.
"It wasn't my first time throwing in Arizona, but in a game situation, it was a first," Fujikawa said. "I don't know how much different it'll be in Chicago, but first I need to adjust to this Arizona weather."
Cubs pitcher Matt Garza is not a fan of the dry weather in Arizona, and has made himself known.
"I've heard that from other players that there isn't much movement on the ball," Fujikawa said.
How different are things? When Fujikawa came in from the bullpen to throw in the third inning, Shinkawa went to the mound to help interpret for catcher Rafael Lopez.
How are things going for the pitcher?
"I feel welcome every day in this clubhouse," Fujikawa said. "It's my job to put the results on the field. That's probably my way of being a real teammate. That will be my job."
He is expected to set up closer Carlos Marmol, but Sveum said Fujikawa may throw more than one inning, depending on the situation.
"He's a veteran guy who has thrown a lot of innings in key situations in Japan," Sveum said. "You do want to see him in key situations against really good National League, American League hitters to see how it all matches up."
• Cubs pitcher Scott Baker, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, will throw a side session on Saturday, and then be reevaluated. As of now, Baker has not been scheduled to pitch in a Cactus League game, manager Dale Sveum said.
Baker, who had the surgery last April, is not expected to be ready by Opening Day.
• Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer and Edwin Maysonet added a three-run shot for the White team which beat the Blue team, 6-3, on Friday in a Cubs intrasquad game at HoHoKam Park. Brett Jackson was 3-for-3 for the Blue team.
The Cubs open the Cactus League season on Saturday against the Angels in Tempe, with Travis Wood slated to start.
• Third baseman Josh Vitters was day to day with a strained left quad, which he injured running the bases during drills.
"I'm just going to take it easy," Vitters said.
He was not expected to undergo an MRI on his leg.
• Defending bunt tournament champion David DeJesus advanced to the second round on Friday, beating top prospect Jorge Soler. Rafael Lopez, who finished last season at Class A Daytona, ousted veteran Alfonso Soriano in his first-round match.
"He'll have me in the Minors next week," Lopez quipped.
Others to advance include Alberto Cabrera, Shawn Camp, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Edwin Jackson, Nick Struck, Casey Coleman and strength coach Tim Buss, who is subbing for injured Matt Garza. Jackson totaled 700 points in his first-round win over Trey McNutt.
"Beginner's luck," Jackson 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.