After a brief hiatus, the Cubs Inbox is back. Second base, James Russell, Angel Guzman and Welington Castillo are among the topics in this week's Inbox. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your full name and hometown.
I have a question about our second-base picture right now and am trying to gauge how good the combo of Darwin Barney, Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt is. Do you think general manager Jim Hendry would make a deal for Aaron Hill straight up for those three? I know it would never happen, but I just want to gauge where our second basemen rank in relation to a top 15 player at the position. -- Kevin L., Rolling Meadows, Ill.
Three for one? No. Plus, after watching Barney, I wouldn't trade him for Hill straight up. Barney is batting .345 in 11 games, has scored six runs, has a .394 on-base percentage, has played well defensively and gives the team some much-needed energy at the top of the order. Your pick, Hill, is batting .170 with two runs scored and a .180 on-base percentage after 11 games for the Blue Jays. Baker is batting .500 (9-for-18) against lefties. Hill is 0-for-9 against southpaws, 8-for-38 vs. right-handers. Who would you rather have?
Who will be the Cubs' emergency starter this year? Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija have filled that role the last two years, but with Kerry Wood back, would the club consider him for a spot start? -- Andrew E., Buffalo Grove, Ill.
This question was asked before Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells were both placed on the disabled list. Russell is the answer, and he will likely get another start after his first Tuesday in Houston. Wood is not an option. One of the reasons he was switched to relief was to avoid putting too much stress on his arm. Marshall has thrived in the setup role. When asked Wednesday about Samardzija, manager Mike Quade said he'd rather keep the right-hander in the bullpen.
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"We made a commitment [to use him in relief]," Quade said. "He's most likely to be effective out of the bullpen."
We'll see who gets the call next Tuesday against the Padres.
Have the Cubs given up on Guzman? It takes one full season to get over his type of injury. This man is still a valuable asset. -- Fred B., Herrin, Ill.
Guzman isn't going anywhere and has made great progress since undergoing shoulder surgery one year ago. During the last week of Spring Training, he threw 20 pitches in a Minor League game. Since then, he's been pitching every fifth day, continuing his rehab in Mesa, Ariz. Guzman could be the Cubs' secret weapon this year.
The Cubs and Iowa Cubs have their rosters set. I know Guzman is probably rehabbing or on the disabled list, but what happened to Augie Ojeda, Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Snyder? -- Anthony I., Chicago
Ojeda is still bothered by back spasms and Wellemeyer has a sore right hip. They're rehbbing in Mesa. Snyder was slowed this spring because of a strained oblique, but he will be active for Triple-A Iowa's home opener Friday.
What is the status of Castillo? After a great Spring Training, he doesn't seem to be assigned to any of the Cubs' farm teams? -- Paul B., Indianapolis
Castillo still has a sore right index finger, which he injured in Spring Training, and was assigned to Class A Daytona so he could be the designated hitter and get regular at-bats. Castillo was batting .250 with one homer, one double and four RBIs in six games. At Iowa, catcher Chris Robinson is batting .375 (6-for-16) with one double and three RBIs in four games, and Max Ramirez was hitting .154 (2-for-13) with one double, one homer and three RBIs in three games.
What's the plan for Josh Vitters? This will be the last year on Aramis Ramirez's contract, so is there a good chance Vitters will step in at third base next year? How far away is he from playing in the Majors and is he as hyped as he was a year ago? -- Josh S., Schaumburg, Ill.
Vitters impressed a lot of people this spring with his improved play and maturity. He opened with Double-A Tennessee and was batting .333 (7-for-21) with one homer, two doubles and five RBIs after five games. Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita likes to say the players tell him when they're ready. Vitters could be close.
Is Bob Brenly's son Michael still with the organization? If so, what level is he predicted to start the year at?
-- Dave B., Lake in the Hills, Ill.
Yes, Michael, a catcher, is still in the Cubs' system, and he's back at Class A Daytona. The organization wanted him to play regularly and didn't promote him because it has catcher Steve Clevenger at Double-A Tennessee. In six games, Brenly was batting .286 (6-for-21) with two doubles and one RBI. He batted .270 with five homers and 35 RBIs last season at Daytona.