GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The Cubs are a day away from tough decisions and two days from revealing them as the coaching staff and the front office will sit together Wednesday evening and make some hard decisions about the roster, the lineup and the starting rotation.
Tuesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds and Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians figure to be the last few times the Cubs go with mix-and-match lineup over the final week of the spring.
When the Cubs face the San Diego Padres on Thursday at Peoria something close to what they will roll out on Opening Day will be revealed. Some of what they will do has already been decided, but the final lineup will be rooted what is decided in that staff meeting.
On Tuesday against the Reds, the Cubs had David DeJesus in the leadoff spot playing right field, followed by Darwin Barney at second base and Alfonso Soriano in left field. Bryan LaHair was batting cleanup and at first base, followed by Joe Mather at third base and Marlon Byrd in center field. The bottom of the order was Alfredo Amezaga at shortstop, Welington Castillo at catcher and Matt Garza on the mound.
On Wednesday the Cubs will face the Indians with Tony Campana in center field, Blake DeWitt at second, Starlin Castro at shortstop, Soriano in left, Ian Stewart at third, Geovany Soto at catcher, LaHair at first, Mather in right and Jeff Samardzija pitching.
Not much is known officially about the Opening Day lineup other than DeJesus is expected to lead off and Soriano will be in the three, four or five spots. LaHair is also expected to be somewhere in the heart of the order.
Lineup questions of note:
Will Castro wind up with the No. 2 or No. 3 spot?
Has Barney shown enough to merit a role as an occasional No. 2 hitter?
If Castro or Barney aren’t in the No. 2 spot, who will it be?
Will the right-handed hitting Soriano be the regular buffer placed between left-handed hitters LaHair and Stewart?
Much of the rotation is known with Ryan Dempster pitching on Opening Day, followed by Matt Garza. Paul Maholm is the No. 5 starter. Samardzija and Chris Volstad are expected to be the other two starters, but there are indications that Samardzija is still not a slam-dunk decision.
The bullpen might provide as much as a challenge for the staff as the lineup will, if not more. Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, James Russell and Randy Wells figure to be locks for the bullpen, unless Wells is moved to a club in need of starting pitching.
Right-hander Rafael Dolis has a strong chance of starting the season in the bullpen as well. Questions are still out on Frankie De La Cruz, Shawn Camp, Casey Coleman and Rule 5 pickup Lendy Castillo, all right-handers. If Castillo doesn’t make it he has to be offered back to his former club, the Phillies, for half of the $50,000 selection fee.