I’ve never been one to get head-over-heels about spring training, other than it signaling the near-end of a long offseason.
Granted there are some interesting position battles each spring, which I understand the spring statistics can play a part in determining final roster cuts, but mostly I keep my fingers crossed the Cubs’ regulars make it to opening day healthy.
Injuries, however, have been mounting for the Cubs since Matt Garza went down with a sore left lat muscle on Feb. 7. Early indications suggested the injury was not serious and would only sideline Garza one week.
Garza, however, didn’t return until two weeks later, when he again felt discomfort throwing. Although the organization, manager Dale Sveum and Garza insist the Cubs are only playing it cautious with the right-hander, he’s not expected to be available through the first month of the regular season.
Dontrelle Willis pulled up lame with shoulder soreness after throwing his first seven pitches this spring. He immediately left the game and has yet to return.
Ian Stewart, who was expected to platoon with Luis Valbuena as the starting third basemen, has been battling a left-quad strain, which has limited him to light jogging and fielding practice.
There’s no question the untimely injury is putting Stewart, who’s playing on a non-guaranteed contract, in jeopardy of not making the team out of spring camp. He’s yet to appear in a Cactus League game.
Third base prospect Josh Vitters is also suffering from a quad strain and has not appeared in game action.
Super utility man Brent Lillibridge entered camp as a favorite to win an opening day roster spot. But he only saw action in five games before suffering a groin strain in early March. He’s still a candidate to make the team if he’s able to return relatively soon.
Aside from Garza, the most concerning setback is with Starlin Castro.
He suffered a tight left hamstring while running out an infield hit on Feb. 27. The Cubs, not surprisingly, have been extra cautious with two-time All-Star’s return.
Castro played in all 162 games last season becoming the first Cubs shortstop ever to do so.
“It was more tight than a pull or anything like that, so he’s just day to day. Thank God, nothing real major at all,” said Sveum.