Four relievers up for two spots in 'pen
Gaudin, Guzman, Patton, Samardzija vying to break camp with Cubs
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are not expected to finalize the last two spots in the bullpen until this weekend in New York, picking between four pitchers, including Rule 5 Draft pick David Patton, who continued to impress on Tuesday.
Neither Patton nor Angel Guzman, who is out of options, were expected to be placed on waivers by Wednesday's deadline. That means they'll either make the Opening Day roster or be traded.
The other two pitchers being considered for the two remaining spots on the 25-man roster include Jeff Samardzija and Chad Gaudin. Chad Fox, who is still in camp, will likely open the season at Triple-A Iowa to continue to strengthen his arm and act as insurance.
"[Jim Hendry] told me there would be no waivers," said Lou Piniella, who met with the Cubs general manager Tuesday. "There will either be a trade or an option -- anything but waivers. We're just going to pitch everybody and see what happens."
The depth is a nice problem to have. The Cubs have already tabbed Kevin Gregg as the closer, with Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Neal Cotts and Luis Vizcaino in the 'pen as well.
Gregg struck out the side in the ninth inning of the Angels' 8-4 win over the Cubs on Tuesday. It was the first time he's pitched that late in a game. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild wanted Gregg to get used to waiting, which is nothing new for the right-hander. He was the Marlins' closer the past two seasons.
Patton has complicated the Cubs' decision in a good way. The right-hander has an 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings over 11 games this spring. He's given up one run, 10 hits, walked two and struck out 15. The catch is that Patton has never pitched above Class A. The Cubs want him to throw this weekend at new Yankee Stadium to see how he does in front of 40,000 people.
"We think it'll be a great experience for him," Piniella said.
|"Regardless of how we go, if it's not right, we'll fix it."|
|-- Lou Piniella, on the final bullpen decisions|
"I came in and just wanted to get ahead of a great hitter [in Guerrero], and I made a good pitch. And he's a great hitter, so you can't take anything away from him," Patton said.
"He hasn't been rattled all spring -- it's been very refreshing," Piniella said of Patton. "It doesn't look like the situation is getting to him. He's out there competing and throwing the ball. We'll see if everything works his way."
Patton struck out two of the three batters he faced in the fifth.
"Obviously, I wanted to go out there and pitch to the best of my ability," Patton said of his first spring. "I guess the ball's rolling my way. I have to go out there and not change anything. I have to pitch with confidence and the attitude to get the hitter out."
If Patton continues at this pace, give credit to the scouts who spotted him.
"I think I've shown I can pitch and pitch to big league caliber hitters," Patton said.
He's trying to be ready for anything. The truck carrying players' belongings to Chicago leaves on Thursday. Patton isn't sure if he should pack or not.
"I think he's got a pretty good handle on what he's doing, or what he should be doing," Gregg said of the red-head. "He can throw a baseball well."
It's impossible to judge a player solely on his Spring Training stats. The two hits Patton gave up were Guerrero's bloop to right and a ground-ball single past the shortstop.
"We try to go on stuff and makeup as much as anything else, but sometimes contracts have a lot to do with it," Piniella said. "We'll just have to see how this thing shakes out. I don't know, I really don't. I've said all along that our front office will have a say in this thing and that's what it looks like to me now."
Gaudin has a 10.54 ERA in seven games, giving up 20 hits and walking nine over 13 2/3 innings. He's owed $2 million this year. Guzman, who has battled elbow and shoulder problems in his career, has appeared in nine Cactus League games, totaling 10 1/3 innings, and has a 8.71 ERA.
Samardzija, who has a 8.16 ERA in eight games, does have options left and could be assigned to Iowa.
"Regardless of how we go, if it's not right, we'll fix it," Piniella said. "Let's not forget that. We're going to do the best we can. We've let everybody compete, like we said, so that's not a problem. We'll see how this thing stands by Saturday or Sunday and then we'll make a decision and if it's not the right decision, we'll rectify it."
The Cubs also may bring Mitch Atkins to New York for the two-game exhibition series to get him used to a stadium with an upper deck. Atkins, who won 17 games last season combined between Double-A and Triple-A, could be the first starter called up if needed.
"Starting-pitching-wise, I hope we stay healthy," Piniella said. "That's a concern. Right now, the way it looks, he'd be the kid sitting down in Triple-A Iowa who would probably get the call."
One pitcher who will not go to New York this weekend is Marshall, the No. 5 starter, who will stay in Arizona to throw on Sunday. The Angels scored eight runs off the lefty on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings.
"I felt strong today," Marshall said. "Maybe I was getting a little ahead of myself and rushing to the plate. I can work on that with my bullpen session this week. Hitters are going to hit -- that's why they're named 'hitters' I guess. It's a matter of keeping them off base."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.