The Cubs had some key question marks they hoped to have answered at the beginning of spring training…
1. RHP Carlos Zambrano
2. LHP Glendon Rusch
3. RHP Greg Maddux
4. RHP Jerome Williams
Because of three off days in the first two weeks, the Cubs won't need a fifth starter until April 15. It's possible that left-handed candidates Rich Hill and Sean Marshall and right-handed candidates Angel Guzman and Jae Kuk Ryu could continue to audition in the minors when the season opens.
RHP Ryan Dempster (closer)
RHP Bobby Howry
LHP Scott Eyre
RHP Scott Williamson
LHP Will Ohman
RHP Todd Wellemeyer or Michael Wuertz
The Cubs lost 20 games last year when either tied or leading heading into the seventh inning, and they hope they solved that problem by picking up two of the best setup men in the game in Howry and Eyre. The big question still looming is whether Ryan Dempster (33 saves in his first year as closer) is more than a one-year wonder.
1. CF Juan Pierre
2. 2B Todd Walker
3. 1B Derrek Lee
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez
5. RF Jacque Jones
6. LF Matt Murton
7. C Michael Barrett
8. SS Ronny Cedeno
Toward the end of camp, the second base spot was still not settled. Jerry Hairston remains a viable candidate for that starting spot and to bat second in the lineup. While Hairston is the better defensive player, Walker is a better hitter and could be better suited for the second slot. Pierre's presence should mean more runs driven in for Lee and Ramirez.
C Henry Blanco
INF Neifi Perez
INF-OF Jerry Hairston Jr.
OF John Mabry
OF Marquis Grissom, OF Angel Pagan or IF Ryan Theriot.
It will be interesting to see if the final position spot goes to the veteran Grissom, whom manager Dusty Baker believes can help some of the younger players on and off the field, or roll the dice with one of the younger players. Mabry, Blanco, Perez and Hairston give the Cubs a solid, but not spectacular, bench.
ROOKIE WATCH: SS Ronny Cedeno and LF Matt Murton barely went over the service time qualification last year and are not eligible for Rookie of the Year honors. The derby for the temporary fifth starting spot will be between four rookies (LHP Rich Hill and Sean Marshall and RHPs Angel Guzman and Jae Kuk Ryu), and one of them could be on the parent squad in April. There is no room for OF Felix Pie (who had a .556 slugging percentage in his first 16 exhibition games), but the 21-year-old should make his major league debut this year.
MEDICAL WATCH: Fans may want to enter a pool on which starting pitcher returns to the mound first. RHP Kerry Wood (shoulder and knee surgery) hopes to be back by late April. RHP Wade Miller (shoulder surgery) should be back in May. And there is no telling yet when RHP Mark Prior (strained shoulder) is scheduled back.
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