With Opening Day now in sight, things are beginning to take shape in the Chicago Cubs' spring camp.
There wasn't much competition for jobs; injuries were the only factor that would affect who makes it and who doesn't, and even that is beginning to sort itself out.
Shortstop Starlin Castro returned after resting a sore injury, and third baseman Ian Stewart appeared to be getting the benefit of the doubt on making the team after a quad injury slowed him.
The one question fans wanted to know was whether two youngsters, shortstop Javier Baez and outfielder Jorge Soler, had a chance to make the team out of spring training. The answer has been an emphatic "no" from the get-go. The Cubs are committed to building their team from within and are willing to take their lumps along the way. They are avoiding, at all costs, the temptation to rush their young players.
The rotation appears set, with Jeff Samardzija tabbed for the Opening Day start over the injured Matt Garza. Scott Baker, a free agent pitcher acquired in the fall, also may not make the team out of camp as the Cubs take it easy on his comeback from Tommy John surgery, performed last April. Following Samardzija in the rotation will be right-handers Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva and lefty Travis Wood.
Offensive production continues to be a big concern. The Cubs were at or near the bottom in several key categories last year, and progress has been slow this spring.
"We've got to start kicking it in," manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously, we're missing (Anthony) Rizzo (because of the World Baseball Classic) and Castro. But even our secondary guys -- we're not swinging the bats at all. The on-base percentage -- everything -- has been pretty bad this spring training. And that's after two pretty good games to start the Cactus League. Since then, it hasn't been very productive at all."
Center fielder David DeJesus is the Cubs' best on-base guy. Rizzo and left fielder Alfonso Soriano provide power. The Cubs want even more from Castro, and they've got an interesting platoon in right field with Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.
"It's not going to be a prolific offense," Sveum said, "but it's going to be an offense that'll keep the line moving a little better than they did last year."