The roster is back to 12 pitchers for the Cubs after the addition Saturday of Rodrigo Lopez to the bullpen.
“He’s a veteran guy who found his slider,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He’s feeling it more. He can go long [innings]. He’s a veteran guy who knows how to pitch, but with his slider back, he becomes more versatile. When you have guys who can go multiple innings, it’s easier to carry 12. We’re looking that way. Obviously, we’re not going to use Kerry Wood very often for two innings or Carlos Marmol, but everyone else can pretty much go two innings.”
Lopez was used in the rotation and relief last season after he was acquired in May, going 6-6 with a 4.42 ERA.
In a corresponding move, infielder Luis Valbuena, 26, who was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, was sent to Class AAA Iowa.
Bryan LaHair is expected to be in the lineup Sunday at first base after his back problems improved through the weekend. The left-handed hitter made his first appearance Saturday as a pinch hitter in the sixth for Matt Garza.
“He went through a full workout [Friday] and everything went well,” Sveum said. “He’s feeling great.”
Sveum also changed the lineup Saturday to stock right-handed hitters against the Nationals’ starting lefty, Gio Gonzalez. Outfielder Reed Johnson led off and Joe Mather played third and batted second.
Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd, the subject of trade rumors, wants to stay put. But the possibility of returning to the Nationals, for whom he played in 2005 and 2006, is something he knows could happen.
“Why not? The Nationals have a good team, but I have something to finish in Chicago,” he told MLB.com. “I love Chicago. If the Cubs can get a piece that can make them better, that’s all I want.
“I heard from our [Cubs] reporters. The Nationals are looking for a center fielder and my name was in the mix. Rumors are out there. It will be interesting.”
The Cubs have inquired about Nationals left-hander John Lannan, who was sent to Class AAA Syracuse at the end of spring training.
It took one day for Sveum to learn what every Cubs manager finds out quickly about the climate conditions of Wrigley Field.
“You see balls hit you think no wind can stop,” he said of how the wind on Opening Day turned likely homers into fly balls by Alfonso Soriano and the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman and a triple by Ian Stewart. “You do manage differently, there’s no question about it. You can’t wait thinking somebody is going to hit a solo home run to win it or a three-run homer. That’s just reality and it’s not going to happen. You’re fighting and scratching for any run to can possibly score [when the wind blows in].”
Sign of the future
Sveum already has heard plenty from friends about his picture on new Cubs billboards promoting the “Baseball Is Better” theme, but he hasn’t seen one yet.
“I’ve had so many people text me about it,” he said. “I guess you’ll become more familiar [to fans] when you have a billboard.”