SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Cubs have now played 18 spring training games, with 16 remaining (and an intrasquad charity game after that, on March 30). So we're essentially at the halfway mark of spring games. Where do the roster battles stand?
- Utility infielder: looks like Darwin Barney has this one nailed down. He's played well in the field, as expected, and is hitting .308 with only one strikeout in 26 at-bats. Plus, he looks like he put on quite a bit of muscle at "Camp Colvin". It's even possible that Barney may get some starts at 2B.
- Fifth outfielder: neither Fernando Perez (.222) nor Reed Johnson (.154) has hit much. Perez is supposed to be the better fielder, but he hasn't shown much there, either. If this keeps up, watch for the Cubs to keep Johnson because Perez has options left; if Johnson fails during the season, Perez could be recalled.
- Backup catcher: we've argued this to death here, but I don't think it's going to change anyone's mind, even with Koyie Hill not playing well in the field and hitting only .048.
- Fifth starter: so far, the best-looking outings have come from Andrew Cashner and Braden Looper. Looper's a great story and I find myself rooting for him to succeed and help the team. Cashner might be better served starting at Iowa; he may not be stretched out enough to start every fifth day in the major leagues. Looper could serve the long-relief role that Jon Lieber was supposed to in 2008, but never did because Lou Piniella, apparently, never got the message that a relief pitcher could go more than two innings. Casey Coleman should get some consideration. Carlos Silva still has to be favored, I suppose, because what else are the Cubs going to do with that contract?
- Bullpen: again, Looper might wind up here. Jeff Samardzija just isn't throwing well, but again, what do you do with his contract? Todd Wellemeyer hasn't done well enough, most likely, to rate a spot; he may wind up starting at Iowa. Guys like James Russell, Scott Maine, Justin Berg and Thomas Diamond -- there's still some competition going for a spot or two, but none of those guys has really shown much at all. They'll all have to step it up over the last 16 games. Only Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall, so far, are guaranteed spots.
Today, Matt Garza goes for the Cubs in his fourth appearance (third start). He'll face the Mariners' Doug Fister. David Pauley, Cesar Jimenez and Garrett Olson (who was a Cub for seemingly about 15 minutes in January 2009) will follow. Complete lineups after the jump.
Fukudome RF Johnson CF Moore 2B Montanez LF LaHair 1B Vitters 3B Castillo C Barney SS Garza P
Looks like a lot of the squad that played all weekend in either split-squad game, are getting the day off, except for Darwin Barney and Kosuke Fukudome.
Ichiro RF Figgins 3B Gutierrez CF Cust DH Smoak 1B Kennedy LF Ryan 2B Jo. Wilson SS Moore C
Here's all the media information for today.
MLB.com Gameday for today's game
Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today. The game is on MLB.com audio with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie.
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Discuss amongst yourselves.