Let's take a quick glance at how the battles for the few roster spots and jobs has been going down in Mesa.
Barring a meltdown the last three weeks (dear lord, three weeks of spring training left?), it looks like Sean Marshall has won the job over Aaron Heilman, Jeff Samardzija and Chad Gaudin.
Heilman looks headed to the set-up role, Samardzija probably to the minors and Gaudin to the waiver wire.
A lot can change in three weeks, but at the moment, the Cubs have four of the seven spots locked down in Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, Aaron Heilman and Neal Cotts. That leaves three spots left for this motley group (ordered in who are the favorites at the moment) .
Luis Vizcaino, David Patton, Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Waddell, Randy Wells, Mike Stanton, Jose Ascanio, Kevin Hart, Ken Kadokura
I find it hard to believe that the Cubs will just eat Vizcaino's contract and teams will wait for guys to get cut from camp before wasting money and prospects on acquiring Vizcaino in a trade. Patton is Rule 5 draftee and has so far given the Cubs good reason to keep him on the roster. That leaves a battle between Gaudin and Guzman (neither have options left) for the final spot and they have three weeks to justify their roster spots. I don't really think the Cubs will carry Samardzija in the pen, preferring to keep him in Iowa stretched out in case a starter is needed. I think Jason Waddell is the dark horse here, because at some point Lou and Larry are going to realize they want two lefties in the pen.
As for the closer battle, it doesn't matter much to me, but probably does for your fantasy teams. I would guess at the moment that it's going to be Kevin Gregg with Carlos Marmol back in the set-up role. Marmol's strikeout ability is better suited for the role of coming in with runners on base and Gregg has been sharp so far in spring training.
Mike Fontenot has won the job over Aaron Miles and will bat sixth in the lineup. Cubs fans exhale collectively.
Lou said he already has a good idea who the backup catcher will be but isn't telling. A quick look at the tale of the tape tells us it should be Koyie Hill.
Never under estimate the power of being a veteran, but Hill is getting the at-bats and clearly leading the race.
Lou says Micah Hoffpauir is a cinch to make the roster and will get some time in the corner outfield spots as well as first base. That makes the bench: Backup catcher, Miles, Hoffpauir, Reed Johnson and one spot open. I'm not sure that one spot is really open with Joey Gathright hitting respectably in spring training and stealing five of six bases. But, they really seem to want someone to back-up third base so Esteban German, Luis Rivas, Bobby Scales and Corey Koskie can still make a case for themselves. Also, with the Cubs skipping a starter at least once, possibly twice, they could carry an extra bench player and go one less reliever for a few weeks. A lot can happen in two weeks and someone might get injured or a reliever may implode right out of the gate (I recall Hart and Pignatiello doing that in recent years) and the Cubs can adjust when a fifth starter is needed around mid-April.
25-Man Opening Day Roster
Here's my guess on the Opening Day Roster
C - Soto
1B - Lee
2B - Fontenot
SS - Theriot
3B - Ramirez
LF - Soriano
CF - Fukudome
RF - Bradley
K. Hill, M. Hoffpauir, A. Miles, R. Johnson, J. Gathright
Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Marshall
Marmol, Gregg, Heilman, Cotts, Vizcaino, Patton, Gaudin
While I kidded about Gaudin headed to the waiver wire, he seemed to be the victim of a tight strike zone in his last start and being out of the running of the 5th starter spot, he should still get some chances to concentrate on being a reliever and working out of the bullpen.
vs righties: Soriano, Fukudome, Lee, Bradley, Ramirez, Fontenot, Soto, Theriot, Pitcher
vs lefties: Soriano, Theriot, Lee, Bradley, Ramirez, Johnson, Soto, Miles, Pitcher
Against lefties, I think Lou will prefer to keep Soto in the 7th spot and he did bat Johnson in the 5th spot a lot last year, so 6th isn't much of a stretch. I could see Johnson batting second as well, with Soto moving up to sixth, Miles 7th and Theriot 8th.