MESA, Ariz. - A few lockers apart in the Cubs' clubhouse Friday morning, two of the best three or four players on the roster - and maybe the two most significant players in camp this spring - packed their stuff and headed to the minor leagues.
Nobody expects it to be a long stay for first baseman Anthony Rizzo and center fielder Brett Jackson, but for now it means the future is on hold for the new-era Cubs - a reminder that the new regime's plans for sustained success won't come quickly, and certainly not immediately.
``That's a couple of guys there that are probably ready to play here - if not really ready to play here,'' manager Dale Sveum said. ``Especially Brett Jackson I think is ready to play here for sure. I think Rizzo probably needs to go down and work on some of the adjustments he's done [in camp.
``When they get back here, they're probably not going to leave for a long time. They're that special of players.''
Both had impressive springs, but barring injuries or trades, neither had much of a chance to make the club entering camp.
Nearly $29 million is tied up in three veteran starting outfielders, and first-base was promised to Bryan LaHair with such certainty that early in camp Sveum said: ``Right now it's a concrete plan to let Rizzo have another season in AAA ... instead of moving him up and down.''
To which the ``disappointed'' Rizzo responded Friday: ``If that's concrete, I want to know who laid that down. Nothing's concrete in this business. Last year I was the future first baseman for the Padres, and now I'm the future first baseman for the Cubs.
``I can't control [that]. If I go down and hit 1.000 with 40 home runs, who knows what's going to happen? I'm just going to go down and work hard an prepare myself for the next step.''
It might take an injury or, more likely, a trade of Marlon Byrd for Jackson to get his shot, but he wasn't talking like that Friday.
``Hopefully, Marlon gets an incentive to keep playing like he does,'' Jackson said. ``Marlon's an incredible competitor and great teammate. It's been great to be around him this spring. That goes for every outfielder and [outfield coach] Dave McKay. ...
``Rizzo and myself, we're going to go over to Des Moines and knock the ball around a little bit and hopefully be back sooner than later and able to help the team.''
The Cubs also cut five other players from big-league camp: pitcher Jay Jackson, catcher Michael Brenly, outfielder Jim Adduci and infielders Bobby Scales and Adrian Cardenas.
That leaves 40 in camp, with another round of cuts expected in the next day or two.