3/21/2013 8:10 P.M. ET
One spot in Cubs bullpen still up for grabs
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Cubs have nine games remaining starting Friday and nine pitchers fighting for one opening in the bullpen.
Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell and Shawn Camp are set, plus the Cubs like what they've seen from right-hander Hector Rondon, a Rule 5 Draft pick. Michael Bowden, who is on the 40-man roster and does not have options left, has had a strong Spring Training and appears to have secured a spot.
"He's had a good spring, he has a track record, he pitched very well the last two or three months he was up last year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Bowden, who compiled a 2.95 ERA in 30 relief appearances last season with the Cubs. "He's basically the one guy in the bullpen who can go multiple innings, and that's a huge asset to have."
Which leaves Jaye Chapman, Rafael Dolis, Jensen Lewis, Blake Parker, Hisanori Takahashi, Casey Coleman, Drew Carpenter, Zach Putnam and Cory Wade remaining. Dolis is the only one on the list who is on the 40-man roster, and the right-hander does have an option remaining. Takahashi is the only lefty in the mix.
Sveum met Tuesday with general manager Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, to discuss the final roster, and they will meet again Friday.
"Realistically, there's one relief spot open," Sveum said.
Feldman thrives at plate, but focused more on mound
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Scott Feldman's hitting has been pretty good this spring. That's not a high priority, though, for the Cubs right-hander.
On Thursday, Feldman gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings in the Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. His Cactus League ERA went from 11.81 to 10.34.
The right-hander admits he still has work to do, and he will have some time. Feldman is slotted into the No. 4 spot in the rotation, and he will open the Cubs' series in Atlanta on April 5.
"I feel pretty good with three out of four of my pitches, but the changeup is one I haven't thrown enough in spring, and the ones I have thrown, they're not game ready," Feldman said. "It's something I need to hammer out the last 10 days or however long I have to pitch. It's something I have to work on a lot and get it straightened out."
It's tough to gauge pitchers in Arizona because the dry air makes it difficult to get a good grip on their breaking pitches. But with Matt Garza and Scott Baker sidelined because of injuries for the start of the season, Feldman becomes a key piece in the Cubs' rotation.
He is making the transition from the American League to the National League at the plate. With two on and none out in the fifth, Feldman lined a single to left center, perfectly timed as the shortstop was shifting to cover second base. The first person Feldman looked for in the dugout? Assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, who talked to the pitcher during batting practice.
"He tried to take credit for that hit," Feldman said of Deer. "He told me, 'If you get a hit today, I better be the first one you look at when you're standing at first.'"
Feldman is now 2-for-4 at the plate with one RBI. Did Deer say anything helpful?
"He's Rob Deer," Feldman said. "He's a better hitter than I am. I'll listen to it."
Signs point to constant traveler Bowden making roster
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Michael Bowden made the two-hour drive to Kino Stadium on Thursday with the rest of the Cubs, and ended up throwing two pitches to one batter. The right-hander barely worked up a sweat against the Dodgers' Alex Castellanos, yet still did his postgame stretching routine.
"I know my body very well, I know how it handles what I do, the next day how I should feel and if I don't feel it, I'm aware of it," Bowden said. "I take a lot of pride in taking care of my body and being healthy, and making sure I maintain my health so I can go out there and perform every day."
It seems to be working. Bowden has never been on the disabled list.
But he has kept the transaction wire busy. In 2011, he shuttled between Pawtucket and Boston. Last year, he made the Red Sox's Opening Day roster and was then designated for assignment on April 15, and traded to the Cubs six days later for Marlon Byrd.
But the Cubs had to make a roster move in June, and Bowden was designated for assignment, then cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. On Aug. 13, he was promoted, and he stayed with the club. Batters hit .320 against him in 12 games in April and May, and he compiled a 6.39 ERA. They batted .174 from August to the end of the season, and he compiled a 1.33 ERA over 20 games.
"I got a lot of innings and a lot of repetitions," Bowden said. "I made a lot of mechanical changes when I went down to Triple-A and I got work down there consistently, and I threw well and it transferred to the big leagues.
"I think a lot of it also had to do with [the fact that] I was out of options, I cleared waivers, so I knew going back up. I really had nothing to lose, I could go out there and have fun and just enjoy it."
Which is the way it should be.
"I've been able to do that at every single level, and it's a comfort thing," Bowden said. "You get to know the guys. With the Red Sox, it definitely wasn't comfortable. I was there for a day, I was there for a week, couple weeks. I knew I was just the guy who was there to fill in. I didn't feel like I was ever really part of the team. I knew it was in my own hands."
Now, he's waiting to hear if he's made the Cubs' Opening Day roster. All signs point to the right-hander being on the final 25. He's versatile -- Bowden can throw two pitches or go four innings -- and he's been effective.
"It's just a matter of repetition," Bowden said. "I feel healthy, I feel strong. All my pitches are working -- they're not as crisp as I'd like them, but they're good enough to compete and get outs. I'm very happy with where I'm at now.
"I just like to pitch. Just throw me out there. I'll do whatever."
After being taken off the Cubs roster, Bowden wasn't sure what to expect. What would it be like if he's on the Cubs' roster April 1?
"Awesome," Bowden said. "That's my goal, and not just my career, but to continue to play with the Cubs, especially the way last year started. Who would've known I'd be back, but I was fortunate enough to get another opportunity. I haven't seen that in my career -- a guy gets taken off the roster and then two months later, gets called back up and put back on the roster. I was lucky, but I feel I went down there and pitched well enough and got another shot."
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Dave Sappelt appears to have the inside track for one of the final spots on the Cubs' bench.
"Sappelt is swinging the bat really well," Sveum said Thursday of the 26-year-old outfielder. "The guy can hit. The guy has proven he can hit, he can hit a Major League fastball. More impressively, getting to see him play quite a bit, he's played really good outfield and is capable of playing center field.
"He's done everything we've wanted him to this spring, and worked hard and made himself a better outfielder. We know he can swing a bat. He has the ability to hit a ball out of the ballpark and hit right-handed pitching and the whole thing. He's done a nice job."
Sappelt spent most of last season at Triple-A Iowa, and batted .275 in 26 games with the Cubs last season.
• Left-hander Travis Wood, who will be slotted into the No. 3 spot in the Cubs rotation, threw in Minor League camp on Wednesday, which was an off-day for the big league team.
• Arodys Vizcaino, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, is throwing every other day, but he is not expected to be ready for the regular season until August or September.
"[The ball is] coming out of his hand pretty good," Sveum said. "He's a middle-of-the-season-type guy. He'll be ready in the middle of the season."
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.