By Adam Hoge-
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) – While most of the Cubs players were getting ready for morning workouts at HoHoKam Stadium Thursday, a few were instead cleaning out their lockers after getting cut.
But one player really stood out and he was sitting in front of his locker in street clothes with a look of shock on his face.
Randy Wells had just been told he was heading to Iowa instead of Chicago.
The right-hander wasn’t expecting to make the starting rotation, but a bullpen spot seemed likely.
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“I didn’t (see that coming),” he said. “It was obviously a shock. It’s just one of those things. Things didn’t work out. Just gotta go down and get stretched back out and try to get built up, make some starts and hopefully be ready when they need me.”
You could hardly blame him for being surprised considering he didn’t give up a single run in any of his major-league outings this spring.
“Usually when this stuff happens, you have a rough spring or you haven’t been pitching well,” Well said. “They obviously have a plan and they have a direction they want to go.”
That direction includes Wells as their sixth starter. General manger Jed Hoyer expressed concerns about using him as a long-reliever in the bullpen, but they almost certainly will need Wells to start for them this season.
“We talked about Randy in the long-relief role, but ultimately we feel like you are going to need a lot of starts out of your sixth starter,” Hoyer said. “We’re not going to play with five starters all year. That’s just not realistic, no one does that. We need him stretched out in Triple-A to come out here.
“I’m sure he’s going to make a lot of starts for the Cubs this year. It was a hard decision, but Opening Day decisions are far from permanent.”
Along with Wells, Travis Wood was also sent to Iowa. He was also in consideration for a starting spot, but he had a rough spring.
“Travis has a really bright future with us, but he struggled a little bit this spring and he needs to go to Triple-A and regain what he had in 2010,” Hoyer said.
The big winner among the pitchers is Jeff Samardzija, who will open up the season as the No. 3 starter. Ryan Dempster will pitch on Opening Day, followed by Matt Garza, Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm.
With the moves made Thursday, the joke going around Mesa is that the Iowa Cubs are going to have one hell of team.
With the depth at the Triple-A level, one can only wonder if the Cubs will look to move guys like Wells and Wood, especially if the major-league team isn’t winning a whole lot of games this season.
“It’s always a balance,” Hoyer said. “The minute you think you have depth, you don’t have depth, which is why you build it up in the first place. Trading out of it can be complicated, but necessary sometimes if you can acquire a piece you need. So we definitely don’t take having depth lightly, but at the same time, yeah, I’m sure there are going to be inquiries. We are going to have some really good pitchers in Triple-A to start the season.”
Clevenger Beats Out Castillo
The battle for the backup catcher position was probably the fiercest in camp and was ultimately won by Steve Clevenger.
Both he and Wellington Castillo had great springs, but Clevenger provides a left-handed bat off the bench and more immediate value. That said, the Cubs clearly think highly of Castillo and have big plans for him in the future.
“Wellington Castillo was probably the most difficult and one where you had to make him understand that he’s an every day catcher and he’s going to make a lot of money and probably play in All-Star Games,” Sveum said. “He just needs to go down and play every single day.”
Hoyer echoed those comments: “Certainly not a knock on Castillo, we think he has a really bright future here, he had a great spring for us, we think he has a chance to be an everyday catcher for a long time.”
Mather Earns Job
Possibly the biggest surprise of spring training was the emergence of outfielder Joe Mather who played so well the Cubs had no choice but to put him on the major league roster.
Mather is hitting .412 (21-for-51) this spring and Sveum even hinted he could push some of the starters for their jobs.
“He’s the kind of guy you just try to ride out, whatever position it might be, but you try to ride it out as long as it will last and hopefully it will last a long time,” the manager said. “And sometimes the way the game is, because of performance, sometimes you just push somebody out and you start playing every day too.”
Mather made the team along with Blake DeWitt who was actually outrighted early in spring training. That leaves Tony Campana as the odd man out, although he will stay on the major league roster until final moves are made Wednesday.
Bullpen Still In Flux
The only final decisions left to be made are in the bullpen, which is still up for grabs. Neither Hoyer or Sveum gave any hints as to which way they are leaning, but Hoyer did mentioned Rodrigo Lopez as a possibility for the long-relief role with Wells out of the picture.
There is more than one spot available in the bullpen, according to Sveum, as Shawn Camp, Frankie De La Cruz, Lendy Castillo, Rafael Dolis and Lopez try to earn a spot. Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and James Russell are the only locks for now, leaving Russell as the only left-hander. Hoyer said he is looking into adding another lefty by next week, but it’s possible the Cubs will open will only one lefty reliever.
Casey Coleman wasn’t officially sent down to Iowa Thursday, but he told reporters that the will be headed to Triple-A. The Cubs view him as a starter and they would prefer he start down there instead of pitch in relief at the major-league level.