3/10/2013 7:13 P.M. ET
Sveum wants to see more production at plate
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are looking forward to having Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo back in the lineup, which has been struggling this spring, and had the lowest batting average in the Majors.
The Cubs entered Sunday hitting .247 as a team. Rizzo is playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, while Castro has been sidelined since Feb. 27 with tightness in his hamstring.
"We're not swinging the bats at all," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The on-base percentage, everything, has been pretty bad this Spring Training, and that's after two pretty good games to start the Cactus League. Since then, it hasn't been very productive. It's not that easy to not get 10 hits in the Cactus League, and we haven't done it for awhile."
The Cubs are last in the Majors in on-base percentage at .307, but 16th in slugging percentage at .446.
"We've got to start kicking it in," Sveum said. "It's getting to that time in Spring Training where the core players will play quite a bit, longer innings and get more at-bats.
"You aren't going to know anything until you get all eight guys out there and playing," he said.
Rizzo will miss a few more days, as Team Italy advances to the second round. Castro was expected back Wednesday. Javier Baez, one of the Cubs' top top prospect, currently shares the team lead in RBIs with six.
Why the bad numbers as a team?
"You've got a lot of young kids, raw kids, who aren't very patient at the plate and making quick outs," Sveum said. "That's a concern for another day. I'll be more concerned [if there are problems] when I'm putting my regular eight guys out there and Rizzo is here and Castro is here."
Last year, the Cubs ranked 15th in the National League in offense, batting .240, and were last in on-base percentage (.302).
Feldman pleased with command in third start
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Scott Feldman wasn't happy with his last spring start against the Rockies, so he talked to Dioner Navarro about it. Whatever the catcher said worked.
In his third spring start Sunday, Feldman gave up two runs on four hits over three innings for the Cubs against the Padres. He got into trouble in the third, serving up a leadoff single to Jason Marquis. Jeff Decker reached on an error by shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, and Marquis was picked off at second. Feldman then hit Travis Buck with a pitch, and both he and Decker scored on Mark Kotsay's double into the right field corner.
The numbers were better than Feldman's previous outing against the Rockies when he gave up four runs on six hits over two innings against the Rockies.
"I felt great out there," Feldman said. "It was the best command I've had. It's a good rebound from last time. I was a little annoyed last time with my secondary pitches. Today, me and 'Navy' talked before about establishing the fastball and working off that. I got a lot of ground balls, which is not always an easy task in Arizona with the thin air."
Feldman said he shook off Navarro once on Sunday.
"It's pretty basic stuff we're trying to do here in spring, get a feel for all your pitches," Feldman said. "I'm not going to concern myself much with exactly pitching to a scouting report. It's nice to get on that same page with the catcher for sure."
Feldman, projected for the No. 3 spot in the Cubs rotation, likes what he's seen of his new team so far. The Cubs are still in rebuilding mode, but he says anything can happen. He saw that with the Rangers.
"I remember everybody saying, 'Yeah, we're rebuilding and we're a couple years away, a couple years away,' and all of a sudden in 2010 we went to the World Series," Feldman said of the Rangers. "You never know what can happen. You see a lot of young guys come through here and working their way up the ladder right now, but there's a good group of young guys here. In 162 games, crazy things can happen. Just because they put that label on of rebuilding, if we get hot, and play well together, anything can happen."
DeJesus defends bunt tournament title
MESA, Ariz. -- David DeJesus successfully defended the Cubs bunt tournament championship on Sunday, beating upstart Nate Halm, a video staffer who advanced from the front office bracket.
Halm, of Mahomet, Ill., who played baseball at Miami of Ohio and also in Germany for a semi-pro team, was a late entry in the tournament, subbing for the team masseuse, Vyascheslav Kodryan, who couldn't compete because the event was held on a Saturday, which was his day off.
Halm advanced through the pitchers' bracket in the 64-player field, and ousted Edwin Jackson in the semifinal round to square off against DeJesus in the final.
"He put the pressure on," DeJesus said of Halm, who led after three rounds of the five-round final. "He was definitely a good bunter. I just wanted to roll on my ball, make sure I was loose, keep the muscles nice and fresh, and I was able to win by 10."
DeJesus beat Edwin Maysonet in the semifinal to advance.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum wasn't too worried about how it would look if Halm won.
"I'm really worried about that," Sveum said with a sarcastic tone. "The guy was a professional player, played overseas and played in college."
First place was $3,400, and $1,000 will be donated to the family of Tom Pratt, a longtime Cubs Minor League coach who died last December.
Stewart, Vitters each likely out about another week
MESA, Ariz. -- Neither Ian Stewart or Josh Vitters was expected to be ready until the weekend as both Cubs third basemen try to come back from sore left quads.
Stewart and Vitters have not played since an intrasquad game Feb. 21. Stewart hit a double in his only at-bat, then had to leave the game with soreness in his quad. He was projected to return by mid week but now that's been pushed back.
"Now it's looking to the weekend," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday about the pair. "They're still feeling it -- both he and Vitters are the same thing. They're still feeling stiffness when they're jogging at 80 percent or running at 80 percent. Hopefully, maybe this weekend. Now it seems to be getting pushed back every day."
Sveum had mentioned that Stewart would have to undergo a cram session to get ready in time for the regular season.
"It's getting more 'crammy,'" Sveum said.
Stewart said the last test is running, and that the athletic trainers have yet to give him the go-ahead to run the bases.
"Dale talked about cramming to get ready for the season and that's understandable because the goal is to be on the team and be there Opening Day," Stewart said. "But I think the ultimate goal is to be healthy for as much of the season as I can be, and whether that's being there Opening Day playing and not being 100 percent and just trying to do it, or taking our time a little bit to make sure I'm 100 percent healthy so I can be there for the long haul and not risk re-injuring it."
Stewart took batting practice on the field, and was making solid contact, hitting a few home runs. What complicates matters is his contract. He signed a $2 million, non-guaranteed deal with the Cubs.
"That's really the last thing I worry about," Stewart said. "I'm just trying to get myself healthy. I know I can help this team out. I have all the confidence in the world with Theo [Epstein, president of baseball operations] and the guys that brought me back to be a part of the team, whether that's Opening Day or not or if I need a little extra time to get ready for the season, then so be it. I'm really not concerned or losing sleep over that."
If Stewart isn't ready, Luis Valbuena would start at third. Stewart feels it's his job.
"Definitely," Stewart said. "I don't think there's any other way to look at it. I'm the third baseman here until they get rid of me."
There's better news about shortstop Starlin Castro and utility man Brent Lillibridge. Both of them should be back on Wednesday. Castro has been sidelined since Feb. 27 with tightness in his left hamstring, while Lillibridge was injured that day, suffering a strained groin.
On Sunday, the Cubs medical staff was to re-evaluate pitcher Matt Garza and see if he could begin a throwing program. He's been out since Feb. 17 with a strained left lat.
Add Junior Lake to the injury list. He was scratched from Sunday's game because of shoulder soreness, which Sveum called a "stiff trapeze." He meant trapezius.
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.