Sveum, Bowden and the question marks around the Cubs

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Sveum, Bowden and the question marks around the Cubs

MESA, Ariz. Cubs executives thought there were enough media demands in this market to make potential managers meet with reporters as part of the interview process, just the way Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had set it up in Boston.

Its not uncommon for Dale Sveum to do four or five rounds of media interviews in a single day here in Arizona. The first-year manager puts a face to the narrative.

Less than two weeks to Opening Day, the story is whos in, whos out and whos on the bubble. The feeling throughout camp was that the Cubs want to see Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija in the rotation.

Sveum went a step further on Saturday when he appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden, the former Cincinnati Reds general manager, and talked about the rotation beyond Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm.

Volstads been throwing the heck out of the ball, so Im not going to see that anything can change there, Sveum said on SiriusXM. That fifth spot Samardzija, (Randy) Wells, (Rodrigo) Lopez theyre all fighting (with) Travis Wood.

But Maholm and Volstad are throwing the ball too good and the command has been unbelievable this spring. So thats probably just the one spot thats open right now.

So it became news when Bowden went on Twitter and reported that Volstad has made the rotation. Afterward, when beat writers asked him about those comments in the managers office, Sveum (who was clearly annoyed) tried to clarify.

The Volstad thing obviously his name came up but theres nothing etched in stone there, Sveum said. I think what I said (was): Obviously, if he keeps throwing the ball the way hes throwing the ball, hes going to be hard to keep out of the rotation.

It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

The Cubs bullpen is also filled with question marks. Kerry Wood hasnt appeared in a Cactus League game since March 18. Sveum said theres no issue.

Were just mainly backing him off (before) getting him a couple more outings before the season starts, Sveum said. The back flares up once in awhile, but thats not a concern now. Hes fine.

The MRI came back negative on Marcos Mateo no ligament damage but he wont throw a ball for around 10 days, taking him out of the Opening Day mix. Mateo is said to be experiencing something similar to the right elbow soreness he felt when he was shut down last July.

Sveum has been asked about the pitching staff for five weeks now, and indicated that hed make some announcements around Wednesday.

On Twitter, Bowden said that Sveum told him the bullpen will include Wood, Carlos Marmol, James Russell, Rafael Dolis and Casey Coleman. Sveum told the Chicago media that Colemans name wasnt even mentioned in his conversation with Bowden.

Sveum has repeatedly said that Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo a converted infielder who has never pitched above A-ball has impressed the organization with his poise and command. Carrying Castillo on the 25-man roster and not returning him to the Philadelphia Phillies is a possibility.

Hes obviously (made us think) this could be a reality, Sveum said.

Theres no disputing that the 24-year-old Dolis has opened eyes and could emerge as a key bullpen piece.

Dolis has had a great camp, just unbelievable stuff, 95 to 97 mph with power sink and command of a slider, Sveum told Bowden. Hes that guy (who) hitters dont like facing. Theres just too much movement, too much velocity and he keeps the ball down. Hes there, too, in that seventh-, eighth-(inning) spot.

The media storm always seemed to follow Carlos Zambrano, which makes it such a sharp contrast that he was traded for the low-key Volstad, whos 6-foot-8 and yet still blends easily into the background.

I dont have an account. Why? Volstad said when a reporter asked if hes on Twitter. I hadnt heard anything. I was getting ready to throw in a minor-league game. I wasnt really paying attention to any of that.

Volstad went six innings down the street at Fitch Park and has so far reinforced what the Cubs think he could be in their rotation. In 10 Cactus League innings, hes allowed one run and has seven strikeouts and no walks.

Its not like I can control the decision, Volstad said, but I feel pretty good where Im at right now.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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