Right-hander Jeff Samardzija started the Cubs' first game of the Cactus League season. Samardzija was the regular-season Opening Day starter last year and the nominal No. 1 pitcher on the staff.
However, lefty Travis Wood wound up being the Cubs' most effective starter, and new manager Rick Renteria remains noncommittal on who will start Opening Day in Pittsburgh on March 31. Will it be Samardzija, or will it be Wood?
Wood was scheduled to start the third game of the Cactus League season. That would put him on line to start the second game of the season, which happens after an off day following Opening Day.
The smart money still is on Samardzija, but Renteria isn't tipping his hand. But he says there's nothing mysterious about it.
"So many things can happen over the course of the spring that I'm not going to lock myself into trying to divulge something that I can't really determine will be in the end," Renteria said.
Renteria was referring to injury. Samardzija's name also has come up in trade rumors. Either way, Renteria said he didn't feel it was fair to anybody to commit so soon.
"That's a terrible thing to do when you name somebody and then all of a sudden it changes," he said. "Obviously, we give you a name and then by elimination everybody starts deducing and speculating. And I've got a large group of guys that are very talented, and I want to see what they can do, and we'll determine that as the days move forward and we get closer to (Opening Day)."
--RHP Jeff Samardzija worked two scoreless innings in the Feb. 27 Cactus League opener against the Diamondbacks. Samardzija, last year's Opening Day starter, gave up two hits. He is the early favorite to pitch the regular-season opener at Pittsburgh. It is also possible Samardzija will be traded, but he made it sound as if that would surprise him. "From what it sounds like right now, we're going head over heels for the season with this team," he said after his start. He and the Cubs are still working on a long-term contract extension.
--INF Emilio Bonifacio started at second base in the Cactus League opener against the Diamondbacks. He tripled and scored a run in the first inning. The Cubs recently signed Bonifacio to a minor league contract and invited him to big-league camp. He possesses speed, an item in short supply with the Cubs. It is possible he could stick as a backup infielder.
--RHP Kyuji Fujikawa began throwing off a mound in late February. It was the first time he did so since having Tommy John surgery on his elbow last June. The first session was 20-25 pitches. Fujikawa's elbow injury limited him to just 12 games last season after the Cubs signed him to a two-year deal out of Japan. "It's one step at a time and it's a long process," Fujikawa said through his interpreter. The Cubs hope he can return to major league action sometime during the summer.
--RHP Kyle Hendricks, the organization's minor league pitcher of the year last season, was impressive in an intrasquad game. He is a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, but he could come up sometime during the summer. "He's probably put himself on everybody's radar by the way he went about his business last year," manager Rick Renteria said. "It doesn't hurt anybody to come out and do well."
--RHP Arodys Vizcaino, who has not pitched since 2011 because of a long recovery from Tommy John surgery, pitched in an intrasquad game in late February. The Cubs remain hopeful Vizcaino can pitch for them this season, and they would use him out of the bullpen. They obtained him from the Atlanta organization at the July trading deadline in 2012. "I'm just hoping his health continues to not be an issue," manager Rick Renteria said. "His arm is live."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You assume they're there every game. I want to put on a good show for them." -- RHP Jeff Samardzija, on being aware scouts from other teams are watching him.