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Chicago Cubs vs. Oakland Athletics Preview, Wednesday 3/23, 3:05 CT: Carlos Silva's Last Chance (We Hope)

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SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I don't think I have to rehash the long history of how Carlos Silva got to the Cubs, or how we got to this point, just nine days before Opening Day, still seeing if he can pitch in the major leagues. In some ways, starting him today doesn't really mean too much. If he does well, what does that actually prove? That he can have one outing in spring training, five or six innings, getting hitters out when he's been poor all spring before this?

Perhaps the decision for Jim Hendry and the rest of the brass will be made easy after today. Simply releasing Silva would cost the Cubs $7.5 million. It can be argued that they could get $7.5 million of production out of any number of other pitchers who will be paid the major league minimum this year.

In any case, they've got to start making these decisions soon; the Cubs' last actual spring game is next Tuesday (after which they play an intrasquad game at Mesa next Wednesday, proceeds to charity).

Some decisions were made earlier today: Justin Berg and Scott Maine were optioned to Iowa. Todd Wellemeyer and Angel Guzman were sent to minor league camp. And there was a Twitter report that Max Ramirez was going to have an MRI on a sore wrist (when did he hurt that? I don't recall hearing that).

So that leaves two bullpen spots open; Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, John Grabow and James Russell look like locks.

Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times writes about how Aramis Ramirez is getting more involved this spring, including helping to mentor Starlin Castro. Don't laugh -- remember, Ramirez was also a major league regular at a young age.

Gio Gonzalez, who threw six strong innings vs. the Cubs last Thursday at Phoenix Muni, gets the start for the Athletics. Other A's listed to pitch today are Grant Balfour and Brad Ziegler. Today's game is not televised, but after that, four games in a row are on TV, Thursday through Sunday. Complete lineups after the jump.

Cubs lineup:

Johnson RF
Castro SS
Baker 2B
Ramirez 3B
Soto C
Soriano LF
Colvin 1B
Perez CF
Silva P

Athletics lineup:

Crisp CF
Sweeney RF
Willingham LF
Matsui DH
Suzuki C
Ellis 2B
Jackson 1B
Pennington SS
Sogard 3B

Here's all the media information for today. Gameday for today's game

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today. Today's game will be on with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie.

Please visit our SB Nation Athletics site Athletics Nation..

There will be an overflow thread posting at 4:30 p.m. CDT. As usual, the overflow thread will NOT post on the front page but will be in the "Recent Stories In Game Threads" box on the right sidebar. If you need an extra overflow thread beyond that one, post it in the FanShot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.