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Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Saturday 3/30, 1:05 CT

One more practice game, then baseball for the Cubs starts for real on Monday.


SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Of note this week were the large contract extensions handed out to Justin Verlander and Buster Posey. Clayton Kershaw could be next on that list. Gordon Wittenmyer writes about this in the Sun-Times, and how it could affect the Cubs' future, quoting manager Dale Sveum:

The signings also underscore that point at another level, illustrating the trend of widely increasing revenues in the game allowing more teams to lock up more good players through early free-agent years — and keeping them off the market.

"That’s what people always talk about now," said Sveum, who watched the Pirates, with their long-dormant fan base and long-lagging local revenues, sign the exciting young Andrew McCutchen to a six-year, $51.5 million extension last year that bought out two years of free-agent eligibility.

A few years ago? "That would never happen," Sveum said.

The Cubs have a contract like that now -- the one given to Starlin Castro last August. They made Jeff Samardzija a similar offer this spring, but Shark apparently wants to wait, likely a good move on his part; if he has another year like last year, or better, he can leverage more money out of the deal. It will still likely be a below-free-agent-market deal, though. The Cubs could consider a similar deal for Anthony Rizzo soon, too.

Cubs lineup:

DeJesus CF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Schierholtz DH, Castillo C, Valbuena 3B, Barney 2B, Hairston RF

Again, as Friday night, most of the regulars are playing this afternoon, though I wouldn't expect them to play much more than half the game.

Astros lineup:

Crowe LF, Correa SS, Singleton 1B, Laird 3B, Martinez DH, Springer CF, Jaramillo C, Santana RF, DeShields 2B

Unlike the Cubs, Houston is resting most of their starters today. They are playing in MLB's season opener on ESPN Sunday night against the Rangers as the network covers the Astros' first game as an American League team. Names of interest in that lineup: Carlos Correa was the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, and Delino DeShields Jr. is the son of the former Cubs infielder.

This afternoon, Travis Wood will face the Astros' Brad Peacock. Gameday

Tonight's game is a webcast on; audio should be up around 12:50 CDT. No TV coverage today.

Here is the complete Mediacenter for today.

For spring-training games, we'll have a first-pitch thread at game time and one overflow thread, 90 minutes after game time (because I know how you all like overflow threads!). For today, that will be 1 p.m. CT and 2:30 p.m. CT. These threads will not post individually onto the front page; instead, you can find links to them in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page. They will also appear in this StoryStream™. The pitcher box and regular-season stats will return on Opening Day.

Discuss amongst yourselves.