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Thursday, March 17, 2011
Still holes to fill on Cubs roster

By Bruce Levine

MESA, Ariz. -- There are two weeks left in spring training and only a few roster spots to fill on the Chicago Cubs' opening day roster.

Let's look at the bullpen first.

Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, John Grabow and Jeff Samardzija are all locks to make the team. That leaves two spots open. One will possibly be filled by a third left-hander, either Scott Maine or James Russell, who has made some nice improvements during spring training. He may be asked to go to Triple-A in order to establish his skills as a starter. Maine showed the ability to get lefties out in a September call-up last season.

Those final two bullpen spots may also be dictated by who doesn't join the rotation. Braden Looper, Andrew Cashner, Carlos Silva and Randy Wells seem to be the four battling for the final two spots. Wells appears to be a lock after throwing 14 innings and allowing only two earned runs this spring.

According to team sources, Cashner will either be in the rotation or in the bullpen this season. Looper and Silva are still competing for the starting job, although with $11.5 million owed to Silva, the Cubs may put him in the bullpen as a long man if he doesn't make the rotation or isn't traded.

Two position jobs remain open. Augie Ojeda and Darwin Barney are battling it out for the backup infielder job. Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt will platoon at second base. Baker will also back up Carlos Pena at first and Aramis Ramirez at third.

Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez are competing for the fifth outfield spot. Both have struggled at the plate in spring training [Johnson 4 for 29, .138; Perez 4-23, .174]. Perez brings speed to a Cubs team that had a major league-low 55 stolen bases last season.

Johnson can play all three outfield positions and has the solid makeup that teams look for in an extra man.

A decision on the rotation could come as early as Monday or Tuesday. The other roster spot might not be decided until March 30 when the Cubs fly to Chicago to prepare for the opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1.