Outlook: Samardzija provides upside in mixed leagues

MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija is preparing for Opening Day, but he wasn't about to name himself as the Cubs' starter on March 31 against the Pirates.

The right-hander tuned up for the season with his second spring outing Wednesday, giving up three runs on four hits over three innings against the Rockies.

Samardzija has yet to throw his split, focusing instead on fastball command and his sinker.

"I want to come out and establish my other pitches and work on pounding the zone," Samardzija said. "A couple hits fell and got through, but other than that first triple [by Charlie Blackmon], no damage, and that's what you're looking for, is keeping the slugging down and keeping the walks down."

Samardzija doesn't have to worry this spring about making the Cubs' rotation, just making sure the team gets off to a good start.

"When you're younger, you don't realize the pressure or severity of the situation, I guess you could say," Samardzija said. "You're out there young and dumb and just winging the ball around. I'm going into the season with the mindset of being ready for Opening Day and really working towards that and seeing what I need to do to prepare for that so we can hit the season running."

Manager Rick Renteria has not named his Opening Day starter. Does that mean Samardzija, who had the honor last year, is the guy?

"I don't know," Samardzija said. "[Opening Day is] what we're preparing for."

Arrieta throws off mound, reports no issues

Outlook: Arrieta needs to improve control

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw off the mound for the first time this spring on Tuesday, and he said his right shoulder passed all the tests.

Arrieta reported to camp with some tightness in his right shoulder, which put his status at the start of the season as questionable. He threw 10 pitches on Tuesday.

"It felt awesome," Arrieta said.

With the addition of free agent Jason Hammel, the Cubs' other options for the fifth spot in the rotation include Chris Rusin and James McDonald. McDonald will make his first Cactus League start on Friday against the Angels.

Even though Arrieta is not ready for games, he said he's feeling on track.

"My endurance is ahead of schedule," Arrieta said.

Pitching always in the back of Wells' mind

CLE@CWS: Left fielder Wells tosses scoreless ninth

MESA, Ariz. -- If Casper Wells had his way, he'd be able to pitch and play the outfield in the big leagues.

"I'd love to do both," Wells said. "That'd be awesome. Babe Ruth did it."

Wells hasn't had quite the success as Ruth in terms of either pitching or hitting. A career .230 hitter after four seasons in the big leagues, he's now a non-roster invitee on the Cubs, hoping to find a spot on the bench.

Last year, Wells, 29, became the first position player to pitch in both leagues, doing so for the White Sox on June 28 and the Phillies on Aug. 24. It was the first time he pitched since his days at Towson University in 2005.

"In college, all I knew was to throw a lot of fastballs," Wells said. "I didn't like to walk people, so I threw a lot of strikes. Playing this game for a while, you have to learn how to not throw strikes and throw more offspeed to get hitters off balance. I always pride myself on my arm. I've always had a good arm. It's just a God-given ability. I take pride in my arm and take care of it."

It's not as if he's doing side sessions to stay in shape.

"I take care of it like sleeping on my left side when I go to bed and do some arm exercises and make sure I do long toss," Wells said.

How did the White Sox know to use him?

"It was a situation where I was a guy not playing every day, and not a big money guy on the team, so it seemed like it was fitting," he said. "They asked if I had any kind of pitching experience, and I said, 'Yeah, I was a pitcher until I got drafted.' Even then, when my hitting was so-so, I was like, 'Can I do both?' It was an adjustment to do one thing, just hitting. I was always at practice doing both things."

He was surprised at how normal it felt being on the mound again.

"I just went out there, and I can't say it's like riding a bike, but at the same time, you tap into something in your mind and that your body is used to doing," he said. "It puts you in a different feeling. I still miss that feeling of pitching."

Has Wells considered focusing solely on pitching?

"I have that on the back burner that I can pitch," he said. "Sometimes you get frustrated with hitting. But at this point, I've built myself into being a guy who it's more advantageous to hit. [Pitching] is always there, so who knows?"

Extra bases

Darwin Barney will make his first start at shortstop on Thursday, when the Cubs travel to Goodyear, Ariz., to face the Indians at 2:05 p.m. CT. A natural shortstop, Barney moved to second base full time in 2011.

The Cubs are trying different players at short while Starlin Castro heals from a strained right hamstring that he suffered March 2. Castro, who was expected to be ready by Opening Day, will be sidelined at least one week with the injury.

On Wednesday vs. the Rockies, top prospect Javier Baez started at short.

• Cubs manager Rick Renteria met with Minor League players and took part in their workout on Wednesday, throwing batting practice and watching some of the young pitchers.

"For the most part, I think all the [Minor League] coaches and players appreciate when the big league coaches and manager go down there," Renteria said. "We're all the same organization. There's no difference between us other than where we're at."

Thursday is when the Cubs' Minor Leaguers will begin full-squad workouts, with games scheduled to start March 13.

• There are no immediate plans to make any roster moves, Renteria said. The Cubs have split-squad games on Friday and March 15-17.

"We're just taking it day by day right now," Renteria said.

Anthony Rizzo was 2-for-2 off a left-handed pitcher on Tuesday. He batted .189 off lefties last season.

"His opposite-field approach in general should allow him to transition against lefties a little better," Renteria said of the first baseman, who will be the Cubs' designated hitter on Thursday.