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Cubs still have options for fifth rotation spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Travis Wood will start the Cubs' home opener on April 4, manager Rick Renteria announced Saturday. The team is still trying to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.

"It'll be exciting for sure, even though Pittsburgh is a great place to pitch," said Wood, who had been expected to follow Jeff Samardzija in the rotation.

Isn't Wrigley Field a good place?

"Wrigley's fine," Wood said, laughing. "It'll be cold either place, so it's not like the weather will be different. The place will be packed, it'll be jumping, it'll be nice."

Renteria said they made the decision because of matchups. Wood has made three starts against the Phillies, the Cubs' opponent for their home opener, and held them to five runs on 13 hits over 21 1/3 innings.

"I had a pretty good track record against them and hopefully I can keep it going and start the season off right," Wood said.

Samardzija will make his second consecutive Opening Day start March 31 against the Pirates, and be followed by Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel and then Wood. The Cubs' options for the fifth spot include Carlos Villanueva, Chris Rusin and Tsuyoshi Wada. Villanueva, a valuable swingman, will start Monday against the Padres, while Wada will start Tuesday against the Angels.

Rusin, who threw five shutout innings on Friday against the White Sox, is a possibility, but the Cubs may pick Villanueva because of his versatility and the fact they have four off days in the first three weeks of games. If the other four starters stay on a five-day rotation, Villanueva could slide into the bullpen until needed.

Renteria didn't tip his hand on Saturday when asked about the fifth spot.

"They're all still in the mix," he said. "They're all going out there and doing a nice job."

The Cubs had projected Jake Arrieta as the fifth starter, but he's been slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder. On Sunday, Arrieta was scheduled to throw a bullpen.

"I'm hoping the next step is a game," he said Saturday. "We'll talk things over and see where we stand."

So far, he's had no problems with his shoulder, throwing 75 pitches in a sim game on Friday.

"The progression and routine is going well," Arrieta said. "My body feels well, shoulder feels good. The velocity and arm strength is right where it needs to be."

Cubs fans will get a chance to see two of the top pitching prospects on Tuesday when C.J. Edwards and Eric Jokisch pitch against the Padres. Edwards, 22, was a combined 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA in 24 games with Class A Hickory and Daytona last season. The Cubs acquired him in the Matt Garza deal. Jokisch, 24, was 11-13 with a 3.42 ERA at Double-A Tennessee in 2013.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
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