Wood gets the start in Cactus League opener

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Travis Wood will take the mound in the Cubs’ Cactus League opener Saturday against the high-powered Angels offense at Tempe Diablo Stadium. In 26 starts last year, Wood went 6-13 with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. The left-hander could have the inside track on the fifth starter job out of camp because the Cubs other four projected starters are all right-handed.

Relievers Jaye Chapman, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Zach Putnam, Hector Rondon and Hisanori Takahashi also made the trip.

Ian Stewart was initially scheduled to make the start at third base, and Luis Valbuena was penciled in at second. But after hitting a ringing double Thursday in the first at-bat of his first game action since June 12 of last season, Stewart felt a tweak in his left quad as he was rounding first and was pulled from the game. He underwent a precautionary MRI Friday and will be out 10-14 days with a mild-to-moderate quad strain.

In his stead, manager Dale Sveum has moved the versatile Luis Valbuena to third and inserted minor league player of the year Logan Watkins at second. Sveum has always raved about Valbuena’s defense, but the the 27-year old needs to get more out of his bat to play on an everyday basis. Though he smacked a two-run home run in Friday’s intrasquad matchup, Valbuena struggled with the bat last season. In 90 games, he hit .219 with four home runs and 28 RBI. Still, Sveum made it clear that Stewart hasn’t locked up the starting third base job yet—especially considering his health issues.

“It was [Stewart's] job to win, not to lose,” Sveum said on Friday. “Things might change, because who knows when Stewart will be back to play. I know Valbuena can play third. He doesn’t need to play third to get his at-bats. The guy had a good winter ball, and obviously put a good swing on a ball today. I’m not too concerned about Valbuena. I need to see him everywhere. If things work out that way, then he’ll be playing third base quite a bit. But first half of spring, you’ll see him a lot more at other positions.”

The Cubs are slated for 39 spring games this season, including one exhibition game against a World baseball Classic opponent. That’s the most spring games they’ve played since 1952. They’ll play their home opener at HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow afternoon against the defending World Champion Giants, with Jeff Samardzija squaring off Matt Cain.

Len Kasper will broadcast today’s game on WGN Radio. Here is the lineup:

2B Watkins
CF Sappelt
1B Rizzo
RF Hairston
3B Valbuena
C Castillo
LF Jackson
SS Lillibridge
DH McDonald

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