Notes: Opportunity knocks for Guzman
Fox goes yard again; Wood not as sharp, but gets results
MESA, Ariz. -- Angel Guzman will get his first spring start Friday against the Chicago White Sox. The right-hander could be auditioning for a spot in the Opening Day rotation.
Guzman, whose career has been interrupted by injuries, looked sharp on Saturday, pitching three innings against the Kansas City Royals.
"I feel pretty good," Guzman said Sunday. "I think I've been locating my fastball and most of my pitches where I should. I'm going to keep working hard to do things to stay here."
Guzman, 25, gave Cubs manager Lou Piniella the impression that he wants to be on the Opening Day roster.
"You've got to like the young man," Piniella said. "He's thrown 94, 95 [mph]. He's getting his breaking ball over. You've got to like what you see, you really do. He's pitching like he wants a job on the staff, whether it's in the bullpen or in the rotation."
Guzman did peek at the scoreboard in Surprise, Ariz., on Saturday to see the radar gun readings.
"I did a couple times," he said. "I didn't try to be aware of that. I just wanted to be aware of the hitter."
"You have to remember that last year, he really hadn't pitched in almost three years," Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said of Guzman, who was 0-6 in 15 games, including 10 starts for the big-league team. "It was the first year he stayed healthy for a full year. I think you're expecting a lot for a kid with limited Double-A experience and not having pitched for the better part of three years to come to the Major Leagues and thrive there."
Even though the numbers might not back it up, Rothschild said last season was a good experience for Guzman. No. 1, he stayed healthy. Second, he knew what he had to work on this winter.
"He's made some strides," Rothschild said.
"I don't want to throw this year away," Guzman said. "I think this is the year I have to show everybody, especially the Cubs, and to help my team get a lot of wins, get to the playoffs and get to the World Series."
Speak up: Jake Fox figured he had nothing to lose by asking Piniella for more playing time. Fox made his case Saturday, subbed at catcher in the game and went 2-for-2, including a two-run homer. On Sunday, Fox belted a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the sixth against Milwaukee.
"I just wanted to ask him to give me a chance to show what I can do," Fox said Sunday. "I've been working my [tail] off every day. I wanted to talk to him and let him know I was ready to go."
Fox did talk to first base coach Matt Sinatro, who works with the catchers, before going to Piniella. The young catcher knows there are some who question his defensive skills behind the plate. In the Arizona Fall League last year, he played some first base. He's also played some outfield, but said he felt like a fish out of water.
"I would do anything they want me to do," he said. "I want to get to the big leagues like anybody else. If they tell me they want me to stand on my head, I'll do it."
Wasn't Fox a little nervous about confronting Piniella?
"One of the things my father taught me was, if you have an issue, talk about it," Fox said. "It wasn't an issue. I tried to handle it professionally. But if you speak up like that, you have to back it up."
Fox now has seen four pitches in his last three at-bats, and has hit a double and two homers.
"I told [hitting coach Gerald Perry] to line up a couple more guys to come into my office to see if we can see a similar performance," Piniella said. "We knew he could swing the bat. That's impressive swinging."
Arms race: Kerry Wood made his third Cactus League appearance on Sunday, and gave up one hit and walked one over one inning. Wood wasn't as sharp as his two previous outings, but he got the job done.
"I think he was kind of overthrowing the ball a little bit," Piniella said. "But when you have good stuff like he does, you can struggle a little bit and still get out of it."
Ryan Dempster had his most impressive showing with his first 1-2-3 inning this spring. He struck out both Bill Hall and Geoff Jenkins.
"He made some Major League hitters look not too comfortable up there," Piniella said.
Piniella said he's still leaning toward 12 pitchers on the Opening Day roster. One matter to be addressed is that most of the relievers -- guys like Scott Eyre, Bob Howry and Wood -- are one-inning type pitchers. The Cubs still need a designated long man. Right now, there's plenty of depth in the rotation and the 'pen.
"I'm not going to have to ask [general manager] Jim Hendry to get me a pitcher," Piniella said. "We've got the ingredients right here in camp. It's getting the right combinations here."
One guy who could stick around is right-hander Rocky Cherry, who picked up his third save on Sunday in the Cubs' 6-3 win over Milwaukee. Could Cherry make the final 25-man roster?
"I like the kid, I really do," Piniella said of Cherry, who pitched at Double-A West Tenn last season. "He's got nice presence. He's got good stuff. He's got a real nice slider, a good hard sinker. The answer to that is yes.
"Let's put the best bullpen together that we can and see where that takes us," Piniella said. "We've been pitching him in the ninth inning in save situations just to take a better look."
Left-hander Rich Hill will throw Tuesday in the Cubs Minor League camp before his next Cactus League game. The move is designed to get Hill aligned for the regular season rotation.
Sean Marshall, slowed this spring because of shoulder issues, will pitch in a Minor League game at Fitch Park on Wednesday. Michael Wuertz, sidelined with a strained right shoulder, is expected to throw in a Minor League game this week as well. He had a good session on Saturday, Rothschild said.
Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver, is slated to make his third Cactus League appearance on Monday.
"I'd like to see Samardzija face Barry Bonds one time," Piniella said. "No purpose -- but I think that would be exciting."
The Cubs will make roster moves after Monday's game, and Samardzija is expected to be assigned to the Minor League camp. The move would have nothing to do with his performance.
"He needs to go out and pitch," Piniella said. "We don't have the innings now to keep pitching them."
Extra bases: Infielder Mike Kinkade suffered a fractured hand when he was hit by a pitch Saturday and will be sidelined a minimum of four to six weeks. "I knew right away it was broken," Kinkade said. "I knew when my finger was pointed out and I couldn't bring it back in." ... Daryle Ward, Mark DeRosa and Hill were sidelined with the flu on Sunday. ... Cliff Floyd will see his first Cactus League action on Monday and is expected to start in left for the Cubs. ... Lincoln Holdzkom was returned to the Cubs from the Astros, who had claimed the right-handed pitcher in the Rule 5 Draft. Holdzkom was 2-3 with a 1.76 ERA in 25 games last season for Double-A West Tenn, Class A Daytona and the Mesa Rookie League. The Cubs have to return half of the claim fee ($25,000) to the Astros. ... Former Cubs second baseman Eric Young was in camp Sunday. He's now working for ESPN and will be an analyst on Baseball Tonight.
On deck: Carlos Zambrano will make his third Cactus League start Monday against the Giants at 3:05 p.m. CT. Zambrano, who will be the Cubs' Opening Day starter, has not given up a run in five innings so far. He's served up three hits and walked three, while striking out seven.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.