Opening Day lineup all but set
March, 18, 2013
By Jesse Rogers
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum revealed that his starting lineup for Tuesday’s contest against the Texas Rangers at Hohokam Park will most likely be his opening day lineup for the regular season.
Jesse Rogers/ESPNChicago.comDale Sveum posted Tuesday's Cubs lineup, which is expected to be the same on opening day.
David DeJesus will lead off and play centerfield, followed by Starlin Castro at shortstop. Anthony Rizzo bats third and plays first base while Alfonso Soriano will bat cleanup and play left field. Newcomer Nate Schierholtz bats fifth in right field followed by Welington Castillo at catcher. Luis Valbuena starts at third base and bats seventh followed by Darwin Barney at second base.
Jeff Samardzija will pitch on opening day against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it's Chris Rusin's turn on Tuesday against the Rangers.
By most estimations there is a spot open in the outfield while the status of Ian Stewart has made the infield situation murky.
Though lefty hitter Brian Bogusevic has been impressive with seven extra base hits in spring games, it's more than likely the Cubs will take a right-handed hitter as their fifth outfielder to start the regular season along with Soriano, DeJesus, Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.
Dave Sappelt and Darnell McDonald have been battling all spring for that spot. Sappelt may have taken the lead as his game has come together of late.
“The last three days I’ve been putting it together and not putting pressure on myself,” Sappelt said Monday morning. “I shouldn’t have pressure on me.... Obviously we all know there are two spots open. One is probably an outfielder and one is probably an infielder. I guess I was putting pressure on myself. I had to tell myself its spring training and just get ready for April 1, not Feb. 20.”
Sappelt had been struggling back in February. Now he’s back to his old self: hitting left-handed pitching.
“My forte is hitting lefties,” he said. “I’ve never not hit lefties. Even when I struggle I always hit high against lefties.”
As if on cue, Sappelt hit a home run on Monday against lefty Clayton Richard of San Diego after hitting a long one on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics.
As for McDonald, he claims he’s definitely not “rooting against Sappelt,” that just brings bad Karma.
“He’s a good dude,” McDonald said. “Either way it goes. He’s one of my boys. You can’t ride the roller coaster. I don’t ever cheer against anybody. I want everyone to do well. It’s good to see he’s getting locked in.”
McDonald has had his moments but he’s slowed down, hitting just .182 this spring. For a while he was having the better at-bats but that’s reversed itself and that might be the lasting impression for manager Dale Sveum. But there are two weeks to go.
“I’m just focused on trying to improve every day,’ McDonald said. “Trying to come out here and work hard and see what happens. Not really focused on the battle.”
With Sveum claiming the “window is shutting” on Ian Stewart to be ready for opening day, it means Alberto Gonzalez or Edwin Maysonet have a chance at breaking camp with the team.
Gonzalez hit a home run last week and drove in another run on Monday.
“I have a chance,” he said. “I play everywhere. Maybe make the team. Keep working.”
Brent Lillibridge is a lock and will probably get some looks at third base against left handed pitching. Maysonet started there on Monday, so he has a chance as well, but Gonzalez could have the edge with two weeks to go.
Rusin will pitch Tuesday against the Rangers, then Travis Wood will throw in a minor league game on Wednesday as the Cubs have the day off from Cactus League play. Scott Feldman (day) and Samardzija (night) will pitch in split squad games on Thursday.
Rusin is not expected to make the team as a starter, his chances rely in the bullpen.
“It’s madness is what it is,” Samardzija laughed. “It’s called: bring your cash. (Reliever) Shawn Camp takes it seriously. They have their iPads out and looking at statistics. I go from my gut. I don’t pick from the colors of the uniform or anything but I enjoy it. It’s one of the best times of the year for sure.”