Cubs cautious with walking wounded

Starlin Castro is working his way back from a right hamstring strain. AP Photo/Matt York

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria put the brakes on the return of two key players for the upcoming season, declaring both shortstop Starlin Castro and pitcher Jake Arrieta further from being ready for game action then the players themselves stated.

Castro is recovering from a hamstring issue while Arrieta is still making his way back from shoulder stiffness he encountered during the offseason.

“Thrown two bullpens, two good ones,” Arrieta said on Monday, one day after throwing 45 pitches. “Everything is good, command is good. Now I just need a hitter in the box.”

That won’t happen for a while longer as Renteria said Arrieta will throw another bullpen session on Wednesday and then perhaps he’ll be ready for live batters.

“We’re monitoring his work and making sure he stays healthy first and foremost,” Renteria said. “He still has to throw anther pen in a few days.”

It means Arrieta is still a ways from being ready to take the mound in a spring game and subsequently could miss the start of the regular season.

“I still feel like I can be ready but we’re not going rush it,” Arrieta said.

As for Castro, he thought he could play this weekend but it's most likely going to wait until next week.

“He’s progressing well, so hopefully towards the end of the week he can run and get some activity out there,” Renteria said.

Castro indicated he would start baseball activities on Tuesday, including running, and the Cubs say that will continue through the weekend. Game action should occur when the Cubs return from Las Vegas, where they play the New York Mets on Saturday and Sunday.

It would be a stretch to say the players and their manager aren’t on the same page since their timetables aren’t that different, though Arrieta has been “ahead” of Renteria the entire spring. Both players are integral to 2014 and possibly beyond so getting them healthy is the most important issue right now.