Injured Ian Stewart unlikely to make Cubs’ Opening Day roster
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 18, 2013 12:03AM
Chicago Cubs v Minnesota Twins
LAS VEGAS — Third baseman Ian Stewart’s on-again, off-again spring is off again, and it probably means he’s off the Opening Day roster.
‘‘I don’t know if he’s got enough time,’’ manager Dale Sveum said Sunday as Stewart took a third day off because of continued soreness in his quadriceps. ‘‘It’ll be interesting.’’
Stewart strained the quad running out a double in his first at-bats of the spring in an intrasquad game Feb. 21 and didn’t play again until batting five times as a designated hitter in a minor-league game Thursday. He has been sidelined since and is scheduled for another MRI exam Monday.
The Cubs can save $1.5 million of Stewart’s $2 million contract if he’s cut before the April 1 opener, but he more likely will open on the disabled list and get an extended shot at returning.
Stewart’s loss could be catcher Steve Clevenger’s gain. The Cubs don’t plan to carry a third catcher, but the versatility of projected utility man Brent Lillibridge and Stewart replacement Luis Valbuena gives the Cubs the option of taking Clevenger’s capable lefty bat.
‘‘Clevenger’s obviously a guy that would be interesting,’’ said Sveum, who also suggested the Cubs will watch the waiver wire more closely in the next two weeks for backup fits.
Clevenger also can play the outfield and some corner infield and possibly second base.
Baker’s rough debut
Right-hander Scott Baker faced only six batters in his anticipated Cactus League debut against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in Phoenix, recording just one out before running into his pitch limit.
‘‘Trust me, there was some nerves out there,’’ he said. ‘‘I haven’t done it in a while.’’
Baker, who’s behind other starters in camp as he continues a cautious and steady rehab since Tommy John surgery last year, allowed two singles, two walks and a homer.
‘‘The results are one thing, but getting back out there and pitching in front of fans is something I hadn’t done yet,’’ he said. ‘‘It was exciting to get out there and do that today. I feel like I made some decent pitches. Occasionally, I got a little jumpy and left the ball up a little bit.’’
Baker, who missed last season because of the elbow, was pitching his first official game since last spring and still is expected to make his season debut in mid-April.
‘‘Nothing has changed,’’ he said. ‘‘I am scheduled to start every fifth day, and it is up to the medical staff and coaching staff to make those decisions.’’
Marquee prospects Jorge Soler (optioned to advanced Class A Daytona) and Javy Baez (reassigned to minor-league camp) were among seven players cut.
Infielders Josh Vitters and Junior Lake were optioned to Class AAA Iowa, third baseman Christian Villanueva was optioned to Class AA Tennessee and right-hander Barret Loux and catcher Rafael Lopez went to minor-league camp.