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Cubs’ rotation appears to be taking shape

Chris Volstad

Chris Volstad

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Updated: April 26, 2012 8:29AM

MESA, Ariz. — Cubs manager Dale Sveum apparently set his starting rotation for the season Saturday during a series of media interviews, though he said he won’t actually do that until Wednesday.



In a sequence of confusing, at times conflicting, media interviews Saturday morning, Sveum reiterated that two rotation spots remained open. Then he told SiriusXM radio’s Jim Bowden that Chris Volstad has pitched well enough to fill one spot. Then he told beat writers he didn’t say that, after which Bowden provided the audio that refuted the denial.

As for the other opening in the rotation, Sveum was asked in the first interview whether favorite Jeff Samardzija’s first poor outing of the spring Friday had opened the door for candidates Randy Wells or Rodrigo Lopez.

‘‘I don’t think so,’’ he said.

So Volstad and Samardzija join Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm?

‘‘Nothing’s etched in stone,’’ Sveum said.

Of course not.

Volstad has been the best starter in camp, and after looking good in a minor-league outing Saturday, he won’t start again until Sveum’s decision day. So it’s safe to count him in.

‘‘I haven’t heard anything,’’ said Volstad, who added he doesn’t follow Bowden or anyone else on Twitter.

Samardzija’s rough start Friday — which Sveum called ‘‘a lesson’’ in understanding the value of changing speeds — makes his start Tuesday especially important.

Wells, who pitched 12/3 innings in relief Saturday, and Lopez, who starts Sunday, probably are battling for the long-relief role with Casey Coleman, despite impressive springs. But that might change if Samardzija falters again.

‘‘I’d be disappointed,’’ said Wells, who has yet to allow a run in a Cactus League game. ‘‘Three years in the rotation and then have to go to the bullpen. But it could be a new challenge or something exciting. We’ll just see what happens.’’

Wood back pain

Setup man Kerry Wood hasn’t pitched in a week because of back soreness, which has slowed him in previous springs. But Sveum said Wood is fine and expected him to be ready for the opener.

‘‘We’re just kind of backing him off,’’ Sveum. ‘‘We’re giving him a couple more outings before the season starts, more rest or whatever.

‘‘Other than that, he’s been fine. The back always flares up once in a while. It’s not a concern now.’’

Wood is scheduled to throw on the side Monday.

Mateo shut down

Right-hander Marcos Mateo has been shut down for 10 days to two weeks because of the same elbow soreness that sidelined him the second half of last season. He’s out of the running for a bullpen job.

The long-term prognosis is unclear, but an MRI exam was negative. Mateo felt pain in a relief appearance Thursday against the Texas Rangers.

‘‘Everything was fine, actually,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Obviously, we know he’s had the issues with the elbow.’’

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