Greetings, Cubs fans. Is everyone settling into his or her respective spring training groove yet? I hope so. Saturday’s redonkulous beatdown by the White Sox aside (thank you, Mr. Silva, may we have another?), the Cubs have looked pretty solid so far. The starting pitchers have been getting in their early work with good results, and we’ve seen some fine play from some of the youngsters. Outfielder Tyler Colvin, in particular, has shot out to an early lead as “buzz player,”  while another slugging outfielder, Brad Snyder, has taken some steps to, um, notifying Cubs fans of his existence.

But the big story in Cubs camps right now is undoubtedly: ARM WARS. An undoubtedly protracted battle for rotation and bullpen spots is under way. It seems I can’t get three tweets deep in my Twitterstream without seeing an article by some Cubs beat reporter proclaiming “___________ Is Battling for Rotation Spot.” (Insert a Marshall, Samardzija, Parisi as you see fit.) And now that Angel Guzman’s latest setback is well-known (more on this in a sec), the bullpen is more up in the air than ever. So let’s get to the stories* we’re following today:

The latest on Angel Guzman.  When the news came down this weekend that Angel Guzman had been shut down with shoulder pain, which was later diagnosed as a tear, all I could think to say was, “Very sad.” I’ve reported here about Angel suffering through the murder of his brother in Venezuela. And his long injury history is well-documented. Right now, it appears Angel is leaning toward surgery because rest and rehab doesn’t seem to have done much for him so far. Problem is, such surgery could sap his arm strength entirely and end his baseball career. He’ll be visiting the legendary Dr. James Andrew, whose name I never enjoy reading in association with a Cubs pitcher, for a second opinion.

And with Guzman’s injury, the bullpen rumors re-ignite.  It seemed like, for a week or so there, the rumors of the Cubs wanting to trade for a right-handed set-up guy kind of died down. As I’m wont to point out, the team has a metric ton of young power arms in camp, any one of whom could rise to the occasion and pitch some late innings. Nonetheless, rumors crackled over the Twitterwire yesterday of the Cubs again inquiring about Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor. (And Bruce Levine is still mentioning Padres’ reliever Luke Gregerson.) Not to be outdone, Ken Robo-thal even chimes in that the ancient-yet-intriguing John Smoltz could be an option “down the line.”

Turning to the starting rotation, Ted Lilly pitches off the mound.  Still no date named for Ted’s spring training debut; he needs to throw off the mound again in a couple of days. I’m still sticking to May 1st as his return date. As mentioned above, Gorzelanny, Marshall, Samardzija, Silva (ha!), Rule 5 dude Parisi, and even an on-the-fringe name such as Thomas Diamond are vying to lock down a rotation spot. My fave is still Sean Marshall, who’s got “Cubs tenure” in his favor and some decent spring training results so far. (But who will ultimately win is anyone’s guess at this point.) If the Cubs are serious about making Samardzija a starter, they should probably use this last option year to get him regular work in Iowa.

Update:  Carrie Muskat reports Ted is feelin’ God-like and will hurl 35 thunderbolts from the mound tomorrow. Or something like that.

Andres Blanco’s injury ramps up bench battle.  Somewhere on the outskirts of Arm Wars is a, shall we say, skirmish for the bench. I happened to actually witness (on TV) Andres Blanco’s unfortunate injury this weekend, and it does liven up this conflict. Logic would dictate to me that, if Blanco (who I believe was a virtual lock for the 25-man as a great defensive backup middle infielder) isn’t ready to start the season, he should be replaced by youngster Darwin Barney — NOT Starlin Castro (more on him below). Not sure who this Darwin Barney character is? Read this. I’ve seen reports that he could actually match Blanco defensively while offer more upside in his bat.

Quoth Lou: Starlin Castro will start the season in Triple A Iowa.  I still think Castro would be better served starting the season in Double A, where he’d face more hot prospect pitchers. Triple A is largely populated by roster filler and rehab projects. But, hey, at least Darlin’ Starlin will get regular ABs – as he should. No sense making a player that young and talented a backup.

Don’t forget about Chad Tracy.  He’s trying to make the bench, too. It’s still hard to see how he’ll fit with Fontenot and Blanco/Barney almost certainly in the picture. One, perhaps risky proposition, is to leave Blanco and Barney off the 25-man entirely and go with Fontenot as a middle-infield backup. That would enable the Cubs to carry both Tracy and Xavier Nady, which, offensively speaking, would be pretty cool. Tracy can hit with some pop from the left side and backup the corner infield spots while Nady can hit with much pop from the right side and back up the corner outfield spots. I just love that balance. What I don’t necessarily love is the idea of Mike Fontenot playing shortstop. I do consider Mike a good defensive second baseman, however, so maybe he can pull it off.

The new USA Today team report is in! The new USA Today team report is in!  Tie up your loose ends here.

Box score of yesterday’s game.  In case you didn’t hear, the Cubs gave the Oakland A’s another sound thrashing yesterday – winning 10-3. Ryan Theriot had a great game, going 2 for 2 with a walk. Demp, Marshall and Samardzija all had outings ranging from great to decent. Gorzelanny got roughed up a little bit. And Caridad, whom Lou is favoring for a bullpen spot, closed things down cleanly.

Today’s game vs. the Brewers is at 2:05 central. (No link here, just tellin’ ya.) WGN Radio will be covering the game – the pregame starts at 1:30. Here’s the starting lineup per Carrie Muskat:

Theriot SS

Kosuke RF

DLee 1B

Aramis 3B

Byrd CF

Soriano LF

Fontenot 2B

Soto C

Wells RHP

*Reddish sentences leading off each paragraph are hyperlinks. Check back for updates!


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