03/26/2013 8:45 PM ET
Soriano thinks fast start key in 2013
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Last season, the Cubs opened with an 8-15 record. Alfonso Soriano doesn't want to see that again this year.
"Last year, the Washington Nationals had a good April, so everybody was talking about that team," Soriano said of the Nationals, who began the 2012 season 14-4. "I think if we have a good April, it will send a message to the other teams. I hope we have a better April than last year. I think we can do that because we have a better team this year."
Soriano, though, got off to a slow start himself and didn't hit his first home run until May 15.
"I hope this year it'll be a little different," he said. "If we want to be a contender, we have to have a good April."
One thing that would help the Cubs, Soriano said, is more night games at home. Currently, the Cubs play 30 games under the lights at Wrigley Field.
"It should be the opposite -- 30 day games and 51 games at night," Soriano said.
Gonzalez, Putnam won't make 25-man roster
MESA, Ariz. -- Infielder Alberto Gonzalez and reliever Zach Putnam were told Tuesday that they will not make the Cubs' Opening Day roster, and the team is still monitoring the waiver wire to fill the final spots on the bench and in the bullpen.
With Putnam out of the mix, the in-house candidates for the last bullpen spot come down to Cory Wade and lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday.
"He's been pitching really well, he's been getting right-handers out a little easier than left-handers," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Takahashi. "He's very durable. We know he can pitch two, three, even four innings and get to 90 pitches. He's valuable in a number of ways. If the game goes really smooth, you can have the possibility of two left-handers in the last three, four innings. I want him to keep throwing strikes like he has and keep doing what he's doing."
With Gonzalez out of contention for a bench role, that leaves left-handed-hitting Steve Clevenger as the only option in camp. He made the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, and can fill in at first or third if needed. The Cubs want another left-handed bat.
"I look at the transactions, and from what I've seen, there hasn't been anything that fits our needs, as of now," Sveum said.
Gonzalez may be headed to the Minor Leagues, but he will travel with the Cubs to Houston for exhibition games on Friday and Saturday.
Sveum happy to write Castro in at short 162 times
MESA, Ariz. -- As far as Cubs manager Dale Sveum is concerned, you can write Starlin Castro's name in at shortstop for all 162 games this season.
"There are certain guys who want to play and don't want days off," Sveum said of Castro, who played all 162 games last season. "I'm old school that way. ... Going into the season, you want consistency. Those guys play 162 games. That's why they get paid a lot of money and they're some of the best in baseball at their job."
Sveum will keep an eye on Castro and give the 23-year-old a breather if needed. As of now, the shortstop is part of a much improved infield.
"Our whole defense in the infield is about as solid as you're going to get," Sveum said of Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Gold Glove Award second baseman Darwin Barney and third baseman Luis Valbuena.
However, Castro did lead the National League in errors last season with 27.
"Hopefully, a lot of the errors that come from young players and lack of concentration sometimes, those are things we have to get rid of," Sveum said. "Obviously, we gradually did that last year and that's the next level you have to get to where those are very very minimal."
Sveum among Cubs switching uniform numbers
MESA, Ariz. -- When the regular season starts, some of the Cubs players will have new uniform numbers, including manager Dale Sveum.
Catcher Dioner Navarro wanted No. 30, which pitcher Travis Wood has worn since joining the team, but Wood will wear No. 37. Sveum is giving up No. 33 to pitcher Carlos Villanueva, and the Cubs' skipper will wear No. 4. Sveum had noticed that Villanueva had "33" on his cleats, and found out that was the pitcher's preferred number.
No. 30 is very special to Navarro.
"It's because my wife had a brain aneurysm on Sept. 27, and she had her surgery on Sept. 30, and they gave her a 4-percent chance of being alive," Navarro said. "Ever since then, I've been wearing No. 30."
When Navarro explained why No. 30 was special, Wood gave it up.
"He understood," Navarro said.
Navarro's wife is doing well and has no problems.
• Outfielder Brett Jackson, who has been sidelined due to inflammation in his right shoulder, is expected to play Thursday against the Mariners. Jackson is slated to start the season at Triple-A Iowa.
• Third baseman Ian Stewart, who will open the season on the disabled list with a sore left quad, was able to hit in the batting cage on Monday. He will remain in Arizona when the team breaks camp to continue his rehab. Pitcher Matt Garza also will continue his rehab from a strained left lat at the Cubs' facility in Mesa, Ariz.
• The Cubs close the 17th and final season at HoHoKam Stadium on Thursday. Next spring, the Cubs move to a new facility in west Mesa. Chicago's first game at HoHoKam was on Feb. 28, 1997.
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.