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SCOUT’S TAKE ON THE CUBS: Matt Garza, others can offer good news

Carlos Marmol has looked better mound but alternating him with others closing job might be best our scout believes. |

Carlos Marmol has looked better on the mound, but alternating him with others in the closing job might be best, our scout believes. | Sun-Times

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Updated: March 30, 2014 4:20PM



Nobody outside the Cubs’ clubhouse believes the Cubs are going to make much noise in the National League this year, and with their best pitcher, Matt Garza (latissimus dorsi), sidelined until at least May, even tepid optimism has been tempered.

But one veteran major-league scout, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered at least a few bright spots in breaking down the group the Cubs will take into Monday’s opener in Pittsburgh.

‘‘When Garza comes back, you’ve got a 1-2-3 which will be pretty good for the Cubs,’’ the scout said. ‘‘It’s a shame. Because he’s such a battler.’’

The breakdown

Welington Castillo, C: ‘‘I think he’s going to be fine. He lost some of that butt and came to camp in shape. He can really throw. He’s got some power. If he’s ahead in the count, he’s got some juice. If there’s a knock against him, he has a tendency to reach and doesn’t shift real well [behind the plate] sometimes, especially to his arm side. On a good ballclub, he’d probably be a No. 2, but I’d give him a chance. He’s going to hit.’’

Anthony Rizzo, 1B: ‘‘I like Rizzo. He’s a good ballplayer. Defensively, he’s solid. He’s got a great personality. He’s not cocky. He loves the game, you can tell that, and he’s worked hard. He’s struggled a little bit [hitting this spring], but I think he’s going to settle in when the season starts.’’

Darwin Barney, 2B: ‘‘Whew! What can you not say about Barney? Barney’s great. He could play for any ballclub, in my book. He’s a good clutch player, defensively and offensively. He’s a guy that will hurt you in later innings with the bat. He’s just really impressed me more than anybody.’’

Luis Valbuena, 3B: ‘‘He is what he is. He’s a utility player having to play as a starter right now. He’ll do a decent job. There’s only a small percentage of what you’d call true third basemen anymore today, power guys. He’ll play his heart out for you over there. But on a good ballclub, he’d be a utility guy off the bench.’’

Starlin Castro, SS: ‘‘I thought he played well this spring, didn’t make any mistakes. I think he’s been pressured by [Javy] Baez. I think he knows, even with the big contract, he’s got to [step up]. He’s maturing. . . . He made some silly mistakes [in recent years], but I think he’s growing up now. This spring, I was impressed defensively. He made the plays, wasn’t overthrowing the ball, showed good lateral [movement]. He and Barney are a great combo.’’

Alfonso Soriano, LF: ‘‘I like him. They need to leave him alone and just let him play. If they want production from their lineup, they’d better keep Soriano around. He puts up numbers for them. And defensively, my God, he’s playing good defense. I thought he had a hell of a spring.’’

David DeJesus, CF: ‘‘Adequate. He’s a hustle guy. He plays better in right field than center field — shows a better arm. He’ll play his [butt] off for you. He’s a good leadoff hitter, and that’s his plus, and what’s going to keep his job. He’s got to play center field because you don’t have a center fielder. Legitimately, he should be a corner. Average range. He’s better [than last year’s opening CF Marlon Byrd] by far.’’

Nate Schierholtz, RF: ‘‘Ade­quate. One game he’ll look super, next game [not]. Fringy range for me. Doesn’t make the plays on the line like DeJesus would. He’s just OK. Basically, [Cubs] got two corner guys giving everything they’ve got. What makes Soriano good is experience and the bat. Schierholtz doesn’t have the bat. But he’s adequate. I’d take [Scott] Hairston over Schierholtz.’’

Jeff SamarDzija, SP: ‘‘Love him. As soon as he learns that he’s a starter and not a reliever and his secondary stuff would work early in the games to where he shouldn’t have to throw fastball, fastball, fastball, I think he’ll [be consistent]. For some clubs, he’s a solid No. 2 or 3. He’s going to have to be a No. 1 with Garza [out]. He’s athletic enough [that] he’ll take his lumps and shake it off.’’

Edwin Jackson, SP: ‘‘A .500 man. Hard worker, and one of the nicest young men to be around. He’s a 50-50 guy, though. He gets in situations where his secondary stuff’s not working at times [and throw too many fastballs]. He’s going to be good for the Cubs. He’ll be .500 or better. I don’t see him going the low end. He’s durable. He’s probably one of the few guys who’ll go seven innings for you. Even eight if needed. And he’s got a rubber arm. I don’t remember him ever being hurt. . . . But if he’s back with a good ballclub, he’s the third, fourth guy.’’

Scott Feldman, SP: ‘‘Well, here we go. From here on, it’s kind of ‘what you see is what you got.’ I think he’s a hair better than [Chris] Volstad. He’s not overpowering; he’ll work the ball down in the zone. That’s the only way he’s going to have success.’’

Travis Wood, SP: ‘‘To me, Wood’s a pen guy. He’ll throw for you and work hard, but I just don’t see him as a starter. He’s like [former Cub Tom] Gorzelanny was. A guy that can give you innings, but he’s so hot and cold. One game he’ll throw good, but the next game he gets lit up. He’s durable. He’s a tough kid. But to me, he’d be a perfect long man out of the pen.’’

Carlos Villanueva, SP: ‘‘Again, he’s a fifth guy, sixth guy for me. Not going to throw very hard. For a team that’s struggling, he’ll fit the bill till Garza comes back.’’

Carlos Marmol, CLOSER: ‘‘I think Chris Bosio’s done a hell of a job with him. OK, yeah, he’s going to walk ’em. But watching him throw, if you watch his landing, he’s not falling off the mound anymore. I think he’s throwing OK. Does he need a change of atmosphere? Probably. But I think Bosio’s keeping him in check. The slider was in the zone better this [spring]. And who’s going to be there? [Kyuji Fujikawa], maybe. That would probably take some pressure off Marmol. I’d even go with Shawn Camp. I think with the closer with the Cubs, it should be maybe a spot that alternates. If Marmol starts off struggling, I would probably just swing that role around. I think eventually they probably will put Fuji in there. I think that’s why they got him.’’



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