Barring a potential trade for a reliever in the next week or so, the Cubs' pitching staff is set.
As expected, manager Lou Piniella said this morning that right-hander Carlos Silva and lefty Tom Gorzelanny will open the season in the starting rotation, with the other two pitchers in the battle for those jobs -- Jeff Samardzija and Sean Marshall -- going to the bullpen.
That left one bullpen opening, and after a large round of cuts this morning, left-hander James Russell was the last man standing for that job.
``Unless we make a deal,'' Piniella said. ``Remember, Jim [Hendry, general manager] is still working hard. Jim and Randy [Bush, assistant GM] are working hard to get us an experienced right-hander.''
Otherwise, the Cubs would open with a bullpen that has three rookies and a fourth pitcher, Samardzija, without a season year in the big leagues.
Russell, who hasn't allowed a run in seven spring outings (9 IP), won the final spot over lefty John Gaub and right-hander Marcos Mateo -- both of whom were optioned to AAA Iowa.
He joins a seven-man bullpen that also includes closer Carlos Marmol, along with lefty John Grabow, right-handers Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg and two pitchers from the battle for the rotation -- likely left-hander Sean Marshall and right-hander Jeff Samardzija.
Manager Lou Piniella is expected to officially announce the winners of that four-man battle for two starting jobs, one of whom is Carlos Silva (already scheduled to start next on Saturday). Tom Gorzelanny, who pitched a team-high six innings on Thursday, is expected to get the other job.
The five others cut from big-league camp this morning were: outfielder Jim Adduci (optioned to AAA), pitcher Jeff Gray (optioned to AAA) and three non-roster players reassigned to minor-league camp (infielders Bobby Scales and Darwin Barney and catcher Robinson Chirinos).
That left 31 healthy players in camp, with one or two bench jobs to determine, depending on how the next few days play out and whether the organization feels Piniella can get highly regarded prospect Tyler Colvin enough at-bats to justify having him on the big-league bench.