03/22/2013 4:06 PM ET
Patient Nelson waiting his time, likely headed to Triple-A
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Brad Nelson knew when he signed with the Cubs that the odds of him winning a spot in the every day lineup were slim. After all, the Cubs are counting on Anthony Rizzo playing nearly every game at first base.
"I'm a realist," Nelson said.
On Thursday, Nelson hit a three-run home run to help the Cubs beat the Mariners. On Friday, Nelson was assigned to the Cubs' Minor League camp, and most likely will be the starting first baseman for Triple-A Iowa. That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Algona, Iowa, native.
"You're like, 'Hey, I can see what the grass and flowers look like at our house,'" Nelson said about playing close to home.
It's not that he wouldn't have played in Chicago. Right now, Iowa is a good option.
"I still get to play, and when you're still playing, there's always a chance," Nelson said. "I know it's right place, right time. That's out of my control -- that's management and God's hands and his path."
In 18 Cactus League games, Nelson batted .279 with three home runs and seven RBIs.
Villanueva duels against good friend Gallardo
PHOENIX -- Carlos Villanueva doesn't believe in fraternization and wanted to avoid seeing his former Brewers teammates until he took the mound on Friday. But Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo did a sneak attack.
"Someone mentioned to me [that he doesn't like to talk on the field]," Gallardo said. "I was like, 'Oh, I have to talk to him on purpose now and see what he does.' We said hello before the game. He was a good friend of mine, and he still is. It's good to see him doing well."
Gallardo started by sending his former teammate text messages around 7 a.m. MST Friday.
Villanueva left Mesa before the Cubs' team bus, and was hoping to avoid seeing anyone from the Brewers. But when he got to Maryvale Baseball Park, there was Gallardo, waiting for him. The two hugged.
"Of course, he's warming up right there," Villanueva said of Gallardo. "I couldn't just push him away. Pitchers, I'm OK with."
Villanueva and Gallardo were together on the Brewers from 2007-10, and good friends.
"Me and Yo, we were tight when I was there," Villanueva said. "There was a lot of trash talking back and forth for the last couple days. I have a lot of friends on that team, but when it comes down to business, it's business, and they know it.
"We'll be facing them a lot during the season and sometimes it's a good thing I know a little bit about them because that way I can maybe use some of that against them, but hopefully those two years I was away [playing for the Blue Jays], they forgot a little bit."
Villanueva threw six scoreless innings Friday, while Gallardo gave up one unearned run over 5 1/3 innings. Gallardo did offer a scouting report on Villanueva.
"He looked pretty good to me," Gallardo said. "He's got good stuff. Even when he was here, he's got four plus pitches, commands the ball very well, and any time you have the off-speed like he does, you're one pitch away from getting out of a tough inning."
Villanueva's Cubs got the upper hand on Friday, rallying to beat the Brewers, 4-1. They'll meet again April 8-10 in the Cubs' first regular season series at Wrigley Field.
Bogusevic among 11 players trimmed from camp
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs trimmed 11 players from spring camp Friday, including hot-hitting outfielder Brian Bogusevic, and have one spot in the bullpen to fill and one on the bench as Michael Bowden and Dave Sappelt appear to have made the Opening Day roster.
The pitchers sent to Minor League camp included Jensen Lewis, Drew Carpenter, Blake Parker, Casey Coleman and Jaye Chapman. Lefty Chris Rusin was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, but he will start on Sunday when the Cubs face the Indians in Cactus League play.
The Cubs also assigned Bogusevic, Brad Nelson, Edwin Maysonet, Johermyn Chavez and Darnell McDonald to the Minor League camp, and the moves leave 35 players still with the big league team. Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Ian Stewart and Arodys Vizcaino are on that list, and were expected to open the season on the disabled list.
Bowden, who does not have options remaining, appears to have made the final 25-man roster, and there is one opening remaining with four pitchers competing for the spot: Rafael Dolis, Zach Putnam, Hisanori Takahashi and Corey Wade. Takahashi is the only lefty in the mix.
Outfielder Brett Jackson is still limited because of his shoulder injury, but position players still in camp not assured of a spot on the Opening Day roster include catchers J.C. Boscan and Steve Clevenger and infielder Alberto Gonzalez. Clevenger, a left-handed hitter who was on the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, could help the team out as a backup infielder. Gonzalez, who batted .241 for the Rangers last year and .314 at Triple-A Round Rock, is a right-handed hitter.
Barring any unexpected additions from the waiver wire, Sappelt appears to have made the final 25. He batted .266 at Triple-A Iowa last year, and .275 in 26 games with the Cubs. This spring, he batted .182 in 18 games.
"I think the writing is on the wall -- 'Sap' is going to be on the team," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said in announcing the moves. "There's still things that can happen through guys getting released and waiver wires and all that with the extra spots. He's proven to me and the organization he can swing the bat and he's done a really nice job in center field."
Bogusevic, an Oak Lawn, Ill., native, had a great spring, batting .410 in 20 games and "did everything we asked," Sveum said. It just shows that sometimes Spring Training numbers aren't as important as what the coaching staff sees in a player.
"The guy has proven he can hit, he can hit a Major League fastball," Sveum said of Sappelt. "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."
Coleman will continue to pitch in relief, and has impressed the Cubs after making some adjustments with his arm slot that has helped him be more consistent.
The Cubs front office is still looking at outside help. Last year, they acquired Shawn Camp in the final week of Spring Training.
"Through the waiver wire, people become available in other camps," Sveum said. "No matter what you think you have, you're always trying to make yourself a better team."
Complete focus, no distractions for Samardzija
MESA, Ariz. -- Did the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija dump his girlfriend to become a big league pitcher?
In a recent interview, Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said Samardzija met with Dale Sveum the day he was hired as Cubs manager, and talked about his complete commitment to baseball, which included breaking up with his girlfriend.
On Friday, Samardzija clarified the timing. He did meet with Sveum at Wrigley Field on the day he was hired in November 2011, and yes, he did dump his girlfriend.
"In previous years, I didn't feel like I had done everything I could," Samardzija said about baseball. "I thought I worked hard in the offseason and did a lot of things, but especially in midseason I didn't feel I was putting myself where I needed to be to be the best I could be.
"I worked hard that offseason and when I met, I told [Sveum], I had no distractions in my life, and this game can be a lot about just minimizing distractions from the outside," he said. "The older you get, the most you realize that.
"I wanted to level with him that I didn't have any distractions and the only thing on my mind was making the rotation and pitching 30, 32 starts. The best way I could describe it was by saying I didn't have a girlfriend."
So he dumped her?
"Hey, that's fine -- I dumped my girlfriend," Samardzija said. "That sounds like a better story."
It's also true, although he didn't do it before meeting the new Cubs manager. The breakup happened about six, seven months before Samardzija and Sveum talked.
"Like I said, I wanted to let [Sveum] know and let the staff know I was all in with this team and I wasn't going to have any distractions on the outside and I was commited to being the guy they needed me to be for this team," Samardzija said.
Soriano continues to work on swing, selection
PHOENIX. -- Alfonso Soriano hit six home runs last spring, and even though the Cubs outfielder got off to a slow start, he finished with 32 home runs and a career-high 108 RBIs.
On Thursday night, Soriano, 37, connected on his fourth spring home run.
"My hands are still quick, and I know if I swing at a good pitch, I'll hit the ball hard," Soriano said Friday. "I'm working on being selective at home plate. I see on my video that when I swing at a good pitch, I hit it good."
And that's how he felt last spring. Cubs hitting coach James Rowson has figured out Soriano's routine, and the two seem to be working well together.
"He knows my swing, he likes to work, and we work together," Soriano said.
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.