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Schwarber, Happ expected for Cubs' ST opener

Maddon thrilled by 'spectacular' Lester so far this spring
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are expected to play in the Cubs' first Cactus League game on Friday against their National League Central rivals, the Brewers (live on MLB.TV at 2:05 p.m. CT). Left-hander Michael Roth, a non-roster invitee who has pitched for the Angels and Rangers, is scheduled to start.

The Cubs will wear caps both Friday and Saturday in honor of Anthony Rizzo's alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were shot and killed last week.

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are expected to play in the Cubs' first Cactus League game on Friday against their National League Central rivals, the Brewers (live on MLB.TV at 2:05 p.m. CT). Left-hander Michael Roth, a non-roster invitee who has pitched for the Angels and Rangers, is scheduled to start.

The Cubs will wear caps both Friday and Saturday in honor of Anthony Rizzo's alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were shot and killed last week.

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The Cubs begin Cactus League play with the 25-man Opening Day roster pretty well set, so the focus will be more on preparing for the season and evaluating their options for depth.

"The biggest thing about job battles is the contributing factor to alter things would be injury, which we don't want," manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. "You can pretty much write down what you're seeing [regarding the 25-man roster] and be pretty accurate. Often times, when you're a pretty good ballclub, that's the case. When you're not so good, you're always getting additions."

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Maddon said it was a little different in his early years with the Rays.

"That was a casting call, trying to figure it out and you had very few settled positions when you walked in the door," Maddon said.

Worth noting

• Maddon wasn't ready to name his Opening Day starter, but he did say Jon Lester looked the part. The left-hander, who is entering the fourth year of his six-year contract with the Cubs, seems right at home.

"Go back to the first day he was here a couple years ago," Maddon said. "Didn't today look better than that? He was hurt a little bit when he first arrived [in 2015]. Conversationally, he wasn't as settled. He was coming from another spot, [and there were] high expectations, big contract. He's definitely good in his own skin.

"I'm seeing the best version of Jon who I've witnessed as a person and how he goes about his business," Maddon said. "His leadership -- believe me, it's coming out. It's a couple years removed from the signing, and we've all gotten comfortable with one another and he's definitely comfortable in his Cubs skin."

Video: Outlook: Lester a strong candidate to rebound in '18

Maddon saw a different Lester, 34, during a meeting between pitchers and catchers. The veteran spoke up, shared his opinions and was demonstrative. He threw his second live batting-practice session on Thursday, and anyone within earshot could hear the effort.

"The work today was spectacular and I told him so," Maddon said. "I said, 'You could've been pitching the first game of the season the way you looked.'"

But that's not official. Maddon said they like to talk to all of the starters first.

Ben Zobrist continued to get treatment and did not take part in Thursday's workout because of some back soreness. He has not been on the field for any of the Cubs' workouts, which began Monday.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber