Old-school Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva refuses to fraternize with former teammates
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com March 21, 2013 10:03PM
Updated: April 23, 2013 2:29PM
TUCSON, Ariz. — If you’re wondering about the toughness at the end of the Cubs’ patched-up rotation, just listen to fifth starter Carlos Villanueva talk about his start Friday against old teammates from the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to talk to you before the game,” Villanueva said, “because if I have to put one in your neck — hopefully, it won’t come to that — I won’t feel as comfortable doing it. But outside of the stadium, we can chat all you want.”
There’s a version of the Cubs Way for you.
Admittedly, Villanueva has had to explain his hard-core, old-school thoughts on baseball’s long-held policies against on-field fraternization with opponents.
This is a guy who “bolted to right field” during batting practice when his pals from the visiting team headed toward left field to go to the batting cages in Toronto when he played for the Blue Jays.
“Sometimes it’s tough to be the guy that people say, ‘Oh, what’s wrong with this guy?’ It’s the way I am,” he said. “I’m all for enforcing the [non-fraternization] rule a million percent. We’re competing out there. . . . Afterward, we’ll talk. But go between those white lines, I don’t have too many friends.”
Manager Dale Sveum confirmed that Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon and out-of-options right-hander Michael Bowden will be in his opening bullpen, leaving one opening for a group that includes non-roster candidates Casey Coleman, Blake Parker, Cory Wade and Zach Putnam.
† Scott Baker, who suffered a setback with his surgically repaired right elbow, is scheduled to be examined Saturday in Mesa to determine the severity of the setback.
† Despite “good” progress, starter Matt Garza (left lat) is a week to 10 days from throwing off a mound, Sveum said.
† Sveum plans to meet with front-office officials Friday morning for the second time this week to go over roster issues.
† Despite a sub-.200 spring, versatile outfielder Dave Sappelt, who hit well for the Cubs in September, has the inside track to one of the final bench spots, Sveum suggested.
DODGERS 5, CUBS 4
SERIOUSLY: With one start left before the Cubs break camp, right-hander Scott Feldman pitched five innings Thursday without a walk, allowing four runs — three on a one-out homer in the fourth by Alex Castellanos. On the bright side, he drove in a run with a hit-and-run single through the vacated hole and said three of his four pitches (sans changeup) are season-ready. “You don’t want to not take the game in a serious manner; I want to do good,” Feldman said, shrugging off his 10.34 spring ERA. “But you want to just get to the point where you’re executing your pitches. As long as that continues to improve, I think once the season starts I’ll be right where I need to be.’’
TORRID CASTRO: Shortstop Starlin Castro had two more hits, including a two-out solo homer to left-center in the third inning, to bump his spring performance to 10-for-21 (.476).
OPENING ARGUMENTS: Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija started Thursday’s nightcap against Seattle in his final stamina-building start before an abbreviated tuneup next week to prepare for the April 1 opener.
BOWDEN WATCH: On the day manager Dale Sveum confirmed out-of-options reliever Michael Bowden had made his opening bullpen, Bowden was used in a two-out situation in the sixth to retire Castellanos on a grounder to short to get out of the inning. He has allowed only two runs in seven outings this spring (2.08 ERA).
ON DECK: Cubs at Brewers, Maryvale, 3:05 Friday, Ch. 9 (audio, cubs.com), Carlos Villanueva vs. Yovani Gallardo.