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Cubs' rotation depth will be tested from the start

The SportsXchange

If anyone wondered why Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer went after pitching so heavily in the offseason, the answer is becoming apparent now.

Cactus League play wasn't a week along when the Cubs announced that No. 1 starting pitcher Matt Garza would not be ready to start the season and could miss all of April because of a left lat muscle strain. Garza already was facing an uncertain comeback from a stress reaction in his right elbow. That injury ended his 2012 season in July.

In addition, right-hander Scott Baker, one of the pitchers signed as a free agent during the offseason, won't start the season on the active roster. He is coming back from Tommy John surgery performed last April, and the Cubs don't want to rush him.

The upshot is that the Cubs have named right-hander Jeff Samardzija their Opening Day starter. He'll be followed by Edwin Jackson, another pitcher signed this winter.

"I've just been keeping an eye on that date and making sure all my pitches and windup and stretch and all the little things are right where they need to be for that date," Samardzija said of the April 1 opener at Pittsburgh. "It just changes things a little with the lead-up to it. You know what the intensity of that game will be. You just take it easy and not let your emotions build up over the next few weeks."

The final three spots in the rotation, for now, belong to right-handers Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva (both also acquired this winter) and left-hander Travis Wood. The order of the pitchers behind Samardzija and Jackson has not been determined, but the Cubs indicated the No. 3 spot could go to Feldman, whom they signed as a free agent.

"It's an opportunity to kind of sit back and look at things and what I need to work on and make a little bit of adjustment," Feldman said. "From where I am right now, second start of spring, I'm just happy I feel good and my fastball is where it needs to be."
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