02/25/2013 7:40 PM ET
D-Train derailed early with shoulder tightness
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The D-Train was back with the Cubs for seven pitches.
Dontrelle Willis, whom the Cubs' selected in the 2000 Draft and is now in the team's Minor League camp trying to come back, started the eighth inning on Monday against the Dodgers with the game tied at 6. He got ahead, 0-2, to Nick Evans, but felt his left shoulder tighten. Willis threw four straight balls to walk Evans, then threw another ball before Cubs athletic trainer Ed Halbur went to the mound to check on the lefty pitcher. Willis then exited.
"It's frustrating," Willis said. "I worked real hard to get back and finally get in a groove and this happens. I'll overcome it. I've done it before. Just go back to the drawing board."
Willis was selected in the eighth round in 2000, but the Cubs dealt him to the Marlins in March 2002 -- a six-player deal in which Chicago got Antonio Alfonseca. Willis won 14 games and the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003. Now 31, Willis also has played for the Marlins, Tigers, Diamondbacks and Reds. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2011.
Willis was an extra on the Cubs' travel roster and the seventh pitcher in Monday's game. The Cubs needed extra arms after starter Carlos Villanueva failed to finish the first, reaching his pitch count after five batters.
Willis ended up being the pitcher of record and took the loss, as Evans scored to lead the Dodgers to a 7-6 win. The lefty will be re-evaluated on Tuesday at Fitch Park. He said he's had this fatigue problem before.
"I've just got to do a better job doing the maintenance of keeping my shoulder and arm strength up," Willis said, sitting in a corner of the visitors' clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. "It's not so much the lifting and stuff, but doing things to keep my shoulder strong. It's just frustrating because I finally get a chance and hit the ground running. If guys can overcome ACL tears, I'll overcome this and come back.
"I'm just frustrated today. I really wanted to play and mix it up. It's early, so hopefully I have enough time to come back."
His plan now is to "work smarter, not harder." Willis isn't ready to give up.
"You keep fighting, keep competing," he said. "I'm sure it's nothing serious, I'm sure it's just fatigue and stuff like that. God willing, I'll spend a couple days of getting that stuff worked out and get right back on the field. I don't want to miss a lot of significant time."
Garza feeling better, may be ready for Opening Day
PHOENIX -- Matt Garza, sidelined one week because of a strained left lat, could start throwing this week and Cubs manager Dale Sveum feels the right-hander still has enough time left to be ready for the beginning of the season.
Garza ended his live batting practice session after 20 pitches because of soreness in his side on Feb. 17.
"Today, he said he felt really good," Sveum said on Monday. "It seems like every day he's getting better and better."
If Garza does start throwing this week, he would have about five weeks to build up innings for the season.
"Obviously, it'll be close but it looks like it probably can happen if he gets back tossing in the next few days or so," Sveum said.
Garza could still contend for the Opening Day assignment. Sveum said he'll most likely announce who gets the April 1 start by March 20, possibly sooner.
"If he's capable of tossing here in a few days then I don't see why he wouldn't be ready for Opening Day," Sveum said.
Villanueva looks to build off short first outing
PHOENIX -- Carlos Villanueva's Cubs debut lasted less than one inning.
The right-hander, who was making his first Cactus League appearance, had to be lifted after reaching his pitch limit against five batters. It was all Dee Gordon's fault. The Dodgers' leadoff man battled Villanueva in a lengthy 16-pitch at-bat.
"It happens," Villanueva said. "In a perfect world, it would've been six up, six down. It made me focus. I got him out, but after that, maybe I lost a little bit of focus."
Gordon was finally called out on strikes, but Villanueva then walked the next two batters. One out later, Nick Punto hit a two-run single and Villanueva was lifted.
"I was missing down, which, if you're going miss, you'd rather miss down there," he said. "It's spring, first game, and obviously, my sequences will be a little different during the season. Right now, it's getting to know my surroundings, getting to know hitters again. I feel good and we'll take it from there."
Villanueva was scheduled to throw 30 pitches.
"Throwing 16 to the first batter didn't help," he said. "Being a competitor, you don't want to come out in the first inning. I understand -- it's time to build up, time to work on things. I'm satisfied -- obviously, not with the results but with how I feel. We'll take it from there."
Schierholtz questions first glance at lineup card
PHOENIX -- Nate Schierholtz was originally listed in the Cubs' lineup for Tuesday's game at first base. Schierholtz did a double take when he saw that. He's never played first. Ever.
"I've never played first, I've never taken any ground balls, so I'm not sure if that's a misprint or not," he said on Monday.
"Not really, no," the outfielder said. "If that's the case, I'll have to obviously start taking ground balls before I play in a game and get a first baseman's glove."
He can't borrow one from Anthony Rizzo. Wrong hand.
"I have one at home here," Schierholtz said.
He won't need it. Apparently, Rizzo is starting at first on Tuesday and Schierholtz is getting the day off.
"That was a typo," Cubs manager Dale Sveum explained. "[Schierholtz] goes, 'You know, I haven't played first base.' I said, 'You're not playing first base.'"
The good news is that Schierholtz is paying attention and read the bulletin board.
• Cubs manager Dale Sveum was encouraged by Kyuji Fujikawa's outing on Sunday. The Japanese right-hander struck out two and gave up one hit in one inning in his first Cactus League action. Fujikawa had thrown in an intrasquad game on Friday.
"The life on the fastball was better [Sunday] than in the intrasquad game," Sveum said on Monday. "We definitely saw much better life. Sometimes it's because it's a real ballgame and not against your own team. Obviously, the one split he had incredible depth. I think the guy swung at a 50-footer [and struck out]."
The Cubs are still getting to know Fujikawa.
"A guy like him, his Spring Training is more working on his breaking ball to be able to get back in counts," Sveum said.
• Scott Feldman will make his Cubs debut on Thursday. He's been getting his bullpen sessions in before most people have their first cup of coffee.
"I'm working on my sleeping patterns now, trying to get up a little earlier, working on getting my body moving and grooving at 8 [a.m.]," he said on Monday.
Maybe they're getting him ready for day games at Wrigley Field.
"I've been getting up before it's even light out," he said.
• Arodys Vizcaino, recovering from Tommy John surgery, will throw his first bullpen session on Tuesday. He has already been told that he'll be staying in Mesa after Spring Training ends for extended spring workouts, possibly for a couple months. He was not expected to get into any Cactus League games.
• Rafael Dolis was wearing a round wall clock around his neck when he went onto the field for stretching on Sunday. He didn't have to do so Monday. Dolis was given the clock by the coaching staff because he was 15 minutes late for a 7:30 a.m. meeting.
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.