03/02/2013 6:54 PM ET
Watkins proves he can stomach Cubs' tests
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Logan Watkins may never eat guacamole again, but at least he's tried it. Just don't ask the Cubs infielder to eat plain oatmeal or blueberry pie again.
Watkins and Dale Sveum first discussed food in January at the rookie development camp in Chicago. A 21st-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Watkins felt fortunate to sit next to the Cubs' manager at a dinner. Then his fortune changed.
"He noticed I wasn't exactly grabbing everything to eat on the table," Watkins said of Sveum.
The Wichita, Kan., native doesn't have dietary restrictions, just a limited palate.
"Sure enough, we struck up a great conversation where I told him everything," Watkins said.
What Watkins, 23, revealed was all the things he'd never eaten, including chocolate milk, apple pie and guacamole. Sveum was amazed, and for the past week, he's done daily taste tests with Watkins.
Before every team meeting at HoHoKam Park, Sveum would walk into the room, carrying a covered plate. He'd make eye contact with Watkins. The manager would go over the workout plan for the day, and then the infielder would be asked to come up to a table in the middle of the room to eat whatever surprise Sveum had.
Last Saturday, it was chocolate milk. On Sunday, it was an orange, which Watkins had to peel. Monday was plain yogurt with berries. Tuesday was blueberry pie, and that wasn't good. Watkins got one day off because they ran out of time. On Thursday, he had plain oatmeal, which he called "terrible."
Friday was the last day, and that's when Sveum presented the guacamole. Watkins had been dreading that.
"Just on strictly appearance, I wasn't a fan of guacamole," Watkins said. "I'm still not a fan. It had no taste. That's probably the last time I'll try it."
It wasn't the mushy texture or the green color that was the problem.
"It had no taste," Watkins said.
But it wasn't the worst.
"Oatmeal took the cake," Watkins said. "Blueberry pie was a close second. Everything else was not bad, I guess."
Would he eat any of the foods again?
"Chocolate milk or yogurt would be the only two I'd consider," he said. "The berries were OK."
Watkins is a steak and potatoes kind of guy.
"My favorite food is bread, like a roll from 'Texas Roadhouse,'" he said.
He's even adventurous enough to put butter on them.
"I just kind of stay in my own lane and eat the same thing over and over again," Watkins said. "[My family] didn't bring me up to eat like that, but that's the way I grew up."
It's not that he had a bad reaction to anything he ate or endured a bout of food poisoning.
"It's more that I'd never tried it because I never felt like it," he said.
Watkins was the Cubs' 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, and this is his first big league spring camp. It's one he and his stomach won't soon forget. What does he eat in the Minors?
"I eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, because that's there every day, and I'll eat it every day," he said. "Or chicken. I like chicken."
The teasing was good natured, and Watkins handled it well, even if his tummy didn't.
"I'm glad everybody got as much enjoyment out of it as they did, because I didn't," he said. "It's OK. It's over now."
Watkins can focus on prepping for the season and on the team bunt tournament. The young infielder has been impressive in that.
"I'm pretty excited," Watkins said after the last taste test. "It's over, and now I can concentrate on hitting."
Sveum: Garza 'long shot' to be ready for first series
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Garza, who has been sidelined since Feb. 17 with a strained left lat, played catch for the second time since he was injured, and could be back on the mound in a week. But Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the right-hander most likely will not be ready for the opening series of the regular season.
Garza will take Sunday off after his throwing session Saturday, then have another long-toss session on Monday, Sveum said. The right-hander missed the last 2 1/2 months of last season because of an elbow injury.
"He didn't lose a lot of time as far as what he'd already built up," Sveum said. "It wasn't like [he missed] four weeks or something like that to where now you have to build everything back up."
The Cubs will have a better idea as to Garza's schedule once he starts throwing off the mound.
"It'll depend on him," Sveum said. "Because he's so strong and he was basically at, or even ahead of, what he normally is in Spring Training when he [was injured], it's kind of a wait and see with what happens in the first two [throwing sessions] and how his arm responds to the second time he gets in the game when it's the 50-to-60 pitch mark, like [Jeff] Samardzija had Friday.
"All this stuff is such a wait and see. I'm not going to lie, [having Garza pitch in] that opening series is probably a long shot."
Scott Baker, who is rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, also is projected to be ready in mid-April. Baker had his second live batting-practice session on Friday.
"He said he felt way better this time the day after [he threw] than the day after he threw live BP four or five days ago," Sveum said.
The plan is for Baker to have one more live BP session, then pitch in a simulated game before he's ready for a Cactus League game.
Castro's MRI reveals inflamed left hamstring
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro underwent an MRI Friday on his left hamstring, which showed mild inflammation, and he was not expected back in action until mid-next week.
Castro had to leave last Wednesday's game after feeling some tightness in his hamstring running to first base. He was able to hit in the batting cage the next day but had an MRI Friday.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum had said Castro could be back in a game Monday, but now it seems more likely next Wednesday, at the earliest. The good news is Castro doesn't feel any pain in his leg now.
"I think we might be a little more cautious than normal," Sveum said Saturday. "We might see him on the field in three or four days."
Castro was expected to take ground balls on Sunday, and might do some running as well.
Unselfish Villanueva focused on doing his part
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While Matt Garza and Scott Baker continue their rehabs, Carlos Villanueva just keeps on pitching and hopes his unselfish attitude is contagious.
Villanueva made his second spring start Saturday, and was encouraged because he finished not only one inning but three. The Cubs right-hander wasn't able to complete an inning in his Cactus League debut Monday against the Dodgers because of a 16-pitch at-bat against leadoff man Dee Gordon.
Against the Giants on Saturday, Villanueva went three innings and gave up one run on one walk and four hits, including a solo home run by Pablo Sandoval.
"I felt better in the third inning," Villanueva said. "The first two innings, it was like my first outing. The last time, I didn't get a chance to work through my mechanics. The first two innings today, even though I got good results, it was still kind of adjusting.
"That's why we're here," he said. "I'm satisfied, even with the home run allowed. It's the best I've felt, and I had better rhythm that [third] inning. Sometimes you have to tip your cap. I'd rather tip now in spring than in the regular season. It's a better day but I still have work to do."
Villanueva has been used as both a starter and reliever, and has been asked a lot this spring about which he'd prefer. Garza will likely miss at least the first regular-season series as he recovers from a strained lat, and Baker wasn't expected until mid-April as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
All Villanueva did this offseason was prepare to pitch as much as needed. He's rooting for Garza, Baker and everyone on the roster to be healthy. He says he'll do whatever manager Dale Sveum and the front office ask because "I'm an employee here, and whatever I can do to make the seven guys behind me feel like we have a chance to win that day, then I'll do it."
Demanding to start isn't part of his makeup.
"I feel that's more of a selfish way to think, and I try to shy away from that," he said. "This is the definition of a team sport in baseball, and we don't want anybody in the clubhouse thinking for themselves. Those are not playoff teams, those are not championship teams."
He pointed out that not many people picked the Giants to win the World Series last year.
"You don't hear anything out of their clubhouse that would be damning to their chemistry," Villanueva said. "That's what we're building for, and I think we have a bunch of guys whose personalities fit that bill."
• Sveum not only is trying to find the 25 best players to take north, but also helping the front office pick which player to select in the June First-Year Player Draft. The Cubs have the second pick overall.
Sveum is watching a lot of video. A lot of video.
"Of course I am," he said, laughing. "I can't leave that completely up to them."
He's seen film of the top 10 players projected in the Draft, which will be held June 6-8, and didn't reveal his favorites.
• The Cubs' bunt tournament resumes on Sunday. Anthony Rizzo reached the sweet 16, but because he is leaving for the World Baseball Classic, he'll have his match Sunday against Logan Watkins. If Rizzo advances, the Cubs will just tweak the schedule so he can continue to compete. There will be three other matches on Monday.
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.