Front & Central: News from around the division


With Spring Training entering the stretch run it’s time to take a look at how things are shaping up around the division. The Astros get a chance to see the Cards and Pirates up close but the rest of the division trains in Arizona, so we have to depend on scouting and the internet for our information. Injuries and player moves are are usually at the forefront this time of year. Here are a few tidbits that could prove to be important issues for their respective teams this season.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are still auditioning pitchers for the fifth spot in their starting rotation. Manager Dale Sveum said Chris Volstad had locked up a spot after a strong outing in yesterday’s minor league game. Volstad will folloow Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Paul Maholm in the rotation. Travis Wood bounced back from a rough outing with a better performance in Saturday’s big league game. The left-hander is now competing with Randy Wells and  Jeff Samardzija for the last spot. Wells has yet to allow a run in 7 & 1/3 innings this spring and Samardzija was hammered Friday by the Rockies. Rodrigo Lopez is still in Cubs camp and has an outside shot at the final rotation spot.

Cincinnati Reds

The big news in Reds camp is Ryan Madson‘s elbow injury. Madson, signed as a Free Agent during the offseason, will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of the 2012 season. Lefty Sean Marshall has been tabbed as Madson’s replacement for ninth inning duties. Aroldis Chapman may have been another option, but the hard-throwing Cuban has spent  the spring building up his arm strength in order to make the transition to the starting rotation. Chapman threw five scoreless innings yesterday against the Padres.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers made plenty of news before Spring Training even started. Milwaukee lost Prince Fielder to Free Agency but regained the services of slugger Ryan Braun when his 50-game suspension was overturned. So what’s new with the Brew Crew? Starting pitcher Shaun Marcum has been nursing a sore shoulder all spring and finally made his Cactus League debut last week. Marcum is slated to start again today against the Dodgers and appears to be back on track to open the season as the team’s number four starter.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Going into today’s game against the Astros, Pirates relievers have blown back-to-back ninth inning leads. Third-baseman Pedro Alvarez is currently listed as day-to-day with left knee inflammation. Alvarez was injured in Thursday’s loss to the Rays. Clint Hurdle has named Erik Bedard as the Buccos Opening Day starter against Philadelphia.

St. Louis Cardinals

Chris Carpenter is out indefinitely with shoulder weakness caused by nerve irritation. Carpenter anchored the staff last season but the accumulation of innings seems to have taken a toll. Lance Lynn will fill in for Carpenter until the veteran is ready to return. On the bright side for Cardinals fans, Adam Wainwright has been outstanding this spring after missing all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals also have 2009 first-round pick Shelby Miller waiting in the wings if Carp is out for an extended period and Lynn falters.