3/6/2013 6:01 P.M. ET
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
• Hisanori Takahashi has pitched for the Mets, Angels and Pirates, coming to the Major Leagues in 2010. Has the Japanese left-hander given new Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa any tips on adjusting?
"I feel he's an accomplished pitcher in Japan and since we're from the same country, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do over here," Takahashi said Wednesday. "Some of the system, pitching-wise, might be a little different compared to what he's used to in Japan. We're kind of joking about stuff and just having fun."
Takahashi, 37, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, made his first spring start and gave up three runs on five hits over three innings against the Rangers in Wednesday's 3- loss. He's a non-roster invitee in Cubs camp, and didn't know Fujikawa well.
"Him being an accomplished closer, I felt a closer has to be in his own world to do his job, and there was some mystery about him," Takahashi said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "Once I got to know him, he's really friendly and a nice guy."
Japanese ballplayers do train a little differently, but in exchange for longer days, they get an off day every fourth day. Takahashi did talk to Fujikawa about adjusting to the lifestyle in the U.S. Food isn't a problem.
"There's a lot of Japanese [restaurants] around, and I'm sure you guys all go for sushi," Takahashi said.
The Phoenix area is well known for Mexican food.
"I love it," Takahashi said.
• Fujikawa, Carlos Marmol, Shawn Camp and James Russell are locks for the bullpen. The Cubs will have to make a decision on Hector Rondon, the Rule 5 Draft pick, who threw one inning in relief Wednesday, giving up one hit and striking out one. He's given up two hits over four innings in four games this spring.
That leaves at least six players competing for two spots, including Takahashi, Blake Parker, Michael Bowden, Zach Putnam, Jensen Lewis, and Cory Wade. Parker missed most of last season because of an elbow injury.
"At this time last year, he opened your eyes a little bit with the life on his fastball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Parker. "He has an above-average slider that he can get swings and misses on. He's interesting as well."
• Brent Lillibridge is sidelined with a groin strain, injured one week ago. Lillibridge, a non-roster invitee who is competing for a spot on the bench, could return early next week. Being sidelined now doesn't necessarily hurt his chances.
"He got to play," Sveum said of Lillibridge who appeared in five games before he was injured. "It was nice before he got hurt that at least I got to see him at first, second, third and short. Toward the end, he'll play a little outfield."
• Third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters, both sidelined with left-quad strains, are making progress and could get back in Cactus League games next week.
Pitcher Matt Garza, still out with a strained left lat injured Feb. 17, apparently was feeling better.
"[Tuesday] was the most upbeat he's been and the best he's felt," Sveum said, adding that the right-hander might try to play catch this weekend.
Garza is expected to miss the first month of the season.
Castro pain-free, waiting to return to game action
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro said Wednesday he feels no soreness in his left hamstring and is sidelined strictly as a precautionary move.
"There's no pain anymore," Castro said Wednesday in Mesa. "When I'm hitting on the field, it's 100 percent, I don't feel anything."
He has not played in a game since he felt tightness in his hamstring one week ago. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Castro may not be back in a game until Monday.
"I want to be playing," Castro said. "I don't want to see the other people play. It's not for me. I like to play every time I can get in the game."
If there's no pain, why is he sitting now?
"I want to be strong, I don't want to go in a game now and get hurt in a game and [be] out maybe one month of the season, two weeks," he said. "I don't want that. I want to make sure I'm good and can play in the season."
Castro appeared in all 162 games last season, and that's a goal of his heading into the 2013 season.
"It's an important goal for me," he said. "I see guys who play a lot of games, and that's what I like to play. I don't care where, I don't care what league, I like to play. This is the only thing I know how to do is play baseball. That's why I put it in my mind to play. I don't want to miss games. In the season, I don't want to miss games. I like to play every game."
Samardzija gets work accomplished in 'B' game
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija threw 66 pitches over four innings in a "B" game on a back field against the Rangers on Wednesday and survived.
"They like to hit the fastball in the Minor Leagues," said Samardzija, who served up a home run among six hits.
His slider, which was "garbage" in his last outing, was "very good today."
"It's really hard to evaluate this," he said of the workout. "You just want to get your pitch count up, work on your routine a little bit, and have a little bit of fun out there, to tell you the truth."
For example, he tried different combinations with his pitches, working with catcher Steve Clevenger.
"The ball the dude hit for a homer, we were working on elevating the ball up in the air, and I elevated it for him, and he hit it out of the park," Samardzija said of Zach Cone's three-run shot. "Certain things like that, you look at it, and the result doesn't necessarily dictate the means.
"Obviously, you want to throw up zeros anytime you're on the mound," he said. "You look at how the pitches went and how everything went and go from there. The way my arm feels, for me that's most important. You have a 10 o'clock game, you want to make sure you get your body warmed up, your arm warmed up."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum was happy with the workout.
"He came out and threw strikes," Sveum said. "It was a controlled atmosphere we wanted to put him in where he got up and down four times. He was working on some stuff you wouldn't do in a regular game. His secondary stuff was good and he was getting strike one, and obviously, getting too much of the plate with his fastballs."
The Rangers had called the Cubs about playing a "B" game, and Samardzija drew the short straw for the long, early drive.
"Situations like that, you can work on one certain aspect, work out of the stretch," he said. "You can kind of control the environment a little more."
Named the Opening Day starter, Samardzija said the good thing is he knows when he'll be pitching -- April 1 against the Pirates.
"I've just been keeping an eye on that date, and making sure all my pitches and windup and stretch and all the little things are right where they need to be for that date," he said. "It just changes things a little with the lead-up to it. You know what the intensity of that game will be. You just take it easy and not let your emotions build up over the next few weeks."
Bogusevic building confidence with strong start
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brian Bogusevic is the first to acknowledge it's too early in Spring Training to be awarding any one a job. But he may have the inside track on a spot on the Cubs' bench.
"It's nice to get off on the right foot," said Bogusevic, who began play Wednesday 8-for-18 (.444) in nine games.
He played first base on Tuesday, and will see some time there as the Cubs try to find a backup for Anthony Rizzo.
"I've played there a little bit in the past, enough to be comfortable over there but not enough to be feeling like I know everything about it," Bogusevic said. "That's the good thing about having such a long Spring Training is that there's a lot of time to work on stuff. It's something I really want to work on."
Bogusevic grew up a White Sox fan in Oak Lawn, Ill., and attended De La Salle High School, which is near U.S. Cellular Field.
Did he ever imagine wearing a Cubs uniform one day?
"Once you turn professional, that goes out the window," he said of the intracity rivalry.
One element of Bogusevic's game that has impressed Cubs manager Dale Sveum is his approach against left-handed pitchers. He's a left-handed hitter.
"Sometimes there's a stigma that lefties don't like hitting off lefties," Bogusevic said. "It's tough, but I feel I'm capable of doing it. Over the last couple years when I've been in the role of coming off the bench, you don't get a lot of at-bats off left-handed pitching. I've had quite a few early in the spring and it's helped. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you get."
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.