3/18/2014 8:13 P.M. ET
Cubs option spring surprise Vizcaino to Triple-A
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs optioned outfielders Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Zac Rosscup, and infielder Christian Villanueva, to Triple-A Iowa, and assigned catcher Rafael Lopez, outfielder Mitch Maier and pitcher Armando Rivero to Minor League camp on Tuesday.
Vizcaino, who has not pitched in a big league game since 2011 because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, had been a nice surprise this spring, throwing 98 mph fastballs. He gave up two hits and struck out two over three innings in three Cactus League games,.
"We're still following the plan and want to make sure he gets his innings in a controlled environment and kind of ease him back in," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He needs to get in more game situations and things of that nature and make sure he can handle it all and see where it's at."
If Vizcaino continues to progress, he'll likely be one of the first relievers promoted to the big leagues.
"He's got a great arm and needs to continue to command his fastball and do all the other things that the game asks him to do," Renteria said. "If there's a need, he's a nice guy to have. The depth he gives us is real nice."
Jackson, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2009 who led the Pacific Coast League in 2012 in strikeouts, was 4-for-20 this spring with 10 Ks.
"I don't worry too much about his strikeouts because I think there's a lot of damage that comes with his stick," Renteria said. "If his approaches are good and he gets pitches he can handle, it's going to be good. He does have the ability to recognize the zone pretty well and I think I saw that this spring. He plays nice center field, and he'll work in the corners, too. He's a pretty good-looking player."
Vitters, another Cubs' first-round pick who is switching from infield to outfield, was 2-for-17 with 11 strikeouts, but Renteria saw lots of positives.
"He had some really good at-bats, missed a couple balls," Renteria said. "That's the thing about these guys having to get their at-bats now so they can get their work. He's been working diligently in the outfield."
McDonald will rest sore right shoulder
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher James McDonald, pulled from Monday's start after throwing two pitches, has some tendinitis in his right shoulder, and will be sidelined for a few days.
McDonald, who was limited to six starts last season with the Pirates because of shoulder issues, said he felt some discomfort in the bullpen prior to the Cubs' game against the Athletics.
"It felt a little sore warming up," McDonald said Tuesday. "I had some soreness early last year. Me being a little precautious, it was something where I didn't want it to end up being something worse, so I said something -- 'Hey, my shoulder is a little tender and sore.'"
He threw two pitches in the game, and was lifted. McDonald said the soreness is not the same as last year.
"It's nowhere near the extent of where I was at last year," he said.
The plan now is to rest and get the inflammation out, then resume throwing.
"Today I feel reasonably better," McDonald said. "I did some stuff yesterday, did some stuff today. Maybe I'll start throwing in a couple days or so."
McDonald has not had an MRI on his arm. The Cubs want to wait.
"He came in today and was a lot better," manager Rick Renteria said. "We'll just continue to monitor him and see how he feels [Wednesday]."
The right-hander was a candidate for the fifth starter spot on the Cubs. The other options include left-handers Chris Rusin, who will start Friday against the White Sox, and Tsuyoshi Wada, who will start in a Minor League game on Thursday.
Prospect Baez getting tested around the infield
MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez admitted it was a little "weird" to be playing second base, not shortstop, but he was back there Tuesday night and will be tested at third base in the near future.
The Cubs' top prospect, projected to open the season at Triple-A Iowa, handled all the plays in his debut game there against the Athletics on Monday.
"It went pretty good for me," Baez said Tuesday. "It was kind of different. It was tough to know where I was going when the ball was hit. It was kind of hard but I tried to make it look easy."
He admitted that it was "weird at first but I got used to it and I tried to do everything right."
Baez got some help from Darwin Barney, who started at shortstop. The two combined for a nice double play.
"It was a hard ball to Barney," Baez said. "I just tried to get the outs. I got it, I guess."
The Cubs have been working on getting Baez more on his toes, and not flat-footed on defense. That's part of the early drills he's been doing with infield coach Gary Jones.
"It will take time to get used to that position," Baez said.
Which is why the Cubs wanted him to play back-to-back games there.
"It gives him a sense of comfort," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Anyone who is learning another position, you want to give them consecutive games if you can."
This is Baez's second in big league Spring Training camp, and he's learned a lot.
"Last year, I was like, whatever is going to happen, is going to happen," he said. "This year, I learned from the guys how to take care of stuff, how to take care of my body, and I've been doing better this year.
Castro takes BP for first time since March 2
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, sidelined since March 2 with a strained right hamstring, took batting practice on Tuesday for the first time and said he was running at "90 percent."
Castro, who missed two weeks last spring with a strained left hamstring, did some running but did not run the bases.
"Not the bases -- I just did some turning, straight line [running], and I feel pretty good," Castro said.
Is he 100 percent healthy?
"Almost," Castro said. "We ran like 90 percent today."
He's been able to push off with his right leg without any problem.
"I did all of the workout -- take ground balls, throw to first, backhand, and everything feels well," he said.
The Cubs have less than two weeks remaining of Spring Training. Does he have a date set for when he'll get in a Cactus League game?
"I don't have a special day," Castro said. "We're getting close."
Lake to get additional at-bats in Minor League camp
MESA, Ariz. -- Junior Lake will get some additional at-bats on Wednesday in the Cubs' Minor League camp. It doesn't mean the outfielder is headed for the Minors, just a chance to see more live pitching.
Lake had an impressive debut last year with the Cubs, batting .284 in 64 games. He was projected as the starting center fielder this season, but so far, he's 4-for-28 this spring and has struck out 13 times.
"I'm not so worried about his numbers, quite frankly," manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. "Throughout the whole spring, we keep talking about approaches. He has had some really nice at-bats this spring that have resulted in some positive endings but for the most part, as long as he's not getting frustrated and continues to hammer at his approaches and keeps moving along, he'll be fine. We're trying to get as many at-bats for these guys as we possibly can."
Cubs catcher Welington Castillo was in the Minor League camp on Tuesday so he could get more work. It's all part of Spring Training.
Is Lake feeling some pressure to perform?
"No," Lake said Tuesday. "I don't use that word, pressure. I just keep working and try to be ready. I don't worry. Just be prepared and ready for the big leagues. I don't worry. I don't worry if I strike out. Every day, I'm working, working, working, and that's what I need to do, that's what I want to do."
The Cubs need Lake's right-handed bat to compliment the lefty outfielders, including Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney.
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.