The Cubs hoped to have their roster finalized before breaking camp in Arizona Thursday, but they’ll take their final two bullpen decisions down to the wire and into the final two exhibition games this weekend in New York.
Four pitchers remain in the mix for those jobs: Rule 5 draft pick David Patton, out-of-options pitchers Chad Gaudin and Angel Guzman, and top prospect Jeff Samardzija.
Non-roster veteran Chad Fox, who’s also still in camp, was told he’ll open the season at AAA Iowa.
General manager Jim Hendry met with manager Lou Piniella and staff this morning. “He told me there would be no waivers,” Piniella said. “There’ll either be a trade, or be an option – anything but waivers.”
Wednesday is the deadline for placing players on waivers, and the potential candidates for that process – Gaudin and Guzman – would almost certainly be lost via claim by another team.
Instead, Hendry is working on potential trades involving the pair, depending on whether the Cubs elect to keep either or both.
Gaudin, who makes $2 million this year, has had the worst spring of any pitcher still in camp, giving up 12 earned runs on eight walks and 12 hits in his past four appearances alone (6 2/3).
Patton, who must be offered back to his original team, Colorado, if he fails to stick in the majors, has had the best spring of the four candidates for the two spots. But he has never pitched higher than Class A. Whether he gets one of the jobs could come down to how he handles pitching in front of a full house at Yankee Stadium this weekend.
“I don’t know how this exactly is going to go,” Piniella said. “I think spring training can be a little bit of a fooler. We try to go on stuff and makeup as much as anything else. And sometimes contracts have as much to do with it, too.
“Regardless of how we go, if it’s not right, we’ll fix it.”
Also of note:
–Given their issues with lack of starting pitching depth, the Cubs also are considering adding AAA starter Mitch Atkins to the traveling squad for the New York games Friday and Saturday, so that he, too, can have a taste of pitching in the big-stadium environment. He’s considered the Cubs’ sixth starter, the pitcher they’ll recall for a spot start or injury replacement.
–With rainy weather forecast for Friday’s game, the Cubs might leave scheduled starter Ted Lilly behind in Arizona to make sure he doesn’t lose the important work day.
— Fifth starter Sean Marshall also is staying behind when the team breaks camp, so he can pitch Sunday and avoid what would be an even longer layoff before his first start of the season, either April 15 against Colorado or April 16 against St. Louis.