Do the Cubs think Ian Stewart will be ready to start playing when Spring Training starts?
-- Barry S., Chicago
They don't have a definitive answer yet. Stewart, who had surgery on his left wrist in June, was examined in Chicago at the end of the regular season, and is scheduled to begin baseball activities soon. The Cubs will have to rely on medical reports to determine whether he'll be ready. Stewart is arbitration eligible, which also complicates the decision.
"We'll take a long look at his health situation before we make that decision, and look at the market as well to see what our alternatives are," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "We're not going to rush into that decision and we need more information."
The Cubs do have infield talent in the organization in Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario, but they are expected to open 2013 in the Minor Leagues.
"I really like the future at third for the Cubs, but we didn't do a very good job of getting good production out of that position this year, to be honest, and it will be a challenge to do so next year," Epstein said.
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With Starlin Castro finally showing major improvements to his defense at shortstop, is moving Javier Baez, who has eight errors in 13 games in the Arizona Fall League, really a viable option there?
-- Kevin A., LaCrosse, Wis.
Yes. Baez is a very good shortstop, and some of the scouts I talked to think he's better than Castro. Baez is playing third for the first time in the AFL. Not to make excuses, but the infields aren't the best. For the record, Baez has nine errors in 11 games through Wednesday (four at third base, five at shortstop). Let's see how this plays out.
In hindsight, it looks like drafting Lendy Castillo in the Rule 5 Draft was a mistake. Do you see the Cubs doing something like that again this year?
-- Jim M., Lena, Miss.
I'd have to disagree that taking Castillo was a mistake. This was only his third year as a pitcher; he was converted from shortstop after the 2009 season. Castillo, 22, simply needs more time to develop. This offseason, he's pitching in the Dominican Republic -- he gave up one hit and struck out two over 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday in his first game with Leones de Escogido. The Cubs may take part again in the Rule 5 Draft as they try to stock up on pitchers.
Michael Bowden was outstanding during part of August and all of September. If I'm not mistaken, he did not give up an earned run in his last 10 or 11 appearances. Why is there so little said of his stellar performance and his future on the Cubs roster?
-- Bob B., Littleton, Colo.
Bowden has stayed under the radar mainly because middle relievers usually don't make the headlines. He did not give up a run in his last 11 games, and the main reason was that he was getting regular work. Bowden is definitely in the mix for the Cubs' bullpen next year.
Is there any place on Cubs.com where the box scores are listed for the Arizona Fall League?
-- Mike T., Saipan
Go to the Arizona Fall League site for AFL statistics and updates.
What happened to a pitcher the Cubs drafted named Dillon Maples?
-- Barry G., Springfield, Ill.
Maples, selected in the 14th round in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, had an elbow injury that sidelined him most of the season. He pitched in six games for the Cubs' Rookie League team, and also pitched in Instructional League. I talked to him earlier this month, and will have a story soon on Cubs.com.
Have the Cubs settled with the Padres on compensation for general manager Jed Hoyer?
-- Terry L., Sun City Center, Fla.
The Padres dropped their compensation claim for Hoyer and Jason McLeod, the senior vice president for scouting and player development. The Padres were expected to receive player compensation for the two after they left San Diego to take similar positions in the Cubs' front office.
Do the Cubs have any plans to retire Kerry Wood's No. 34?
-- Matt T., Daegu, South Korea
Not that I'm aware of. Considering how popular Wood was, I wouldn't expect anyone to be issued No. 34 any time soon.
Are the Cubs committed to keeping Tony Campana? I believe his talents are invaluable to the team. He can be their not-so-secret weapon at times. It's like having Devin Hester on your team.
-- Kelly W., Naperville, Ill.
Campana can only utilize his Hester-like speed if he gets on base, and he will be playing in Venezuela this winter to work on that.
The Cubs did not seem enthralled in Steve Clevenger as a backup catcher to Welington Castillo. Do they have another backup catcher to complement Castillo?
-- John S., Mason City, Iowa
As of now, Clevenger is No. 2, although the Cubs will look at adding someone with more experience to be a backup. Clevenger's second half numbers weren't good -- .121 in 91 games after the All-Star break -- and he really struggled on the road compared to Wrigley Field (.297 home, .120 away).
Has Hayden Simpson been removed from the Cubs' radar? It seems like he has struggled mightily throughout his young career.
-- Mitchell J., Byron, Ill.
Simpson, 23, who was the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2010, has been slow to build up strength following a bout with mononucleosis. He began this season at Class A Daytona as a starter, but was switched to the bullpen after four games and made 10 relief appearances (6.23 ERA) before he was then dropped to Class A Boise. In 15 games there in relief, he gave up 39 runs on 51 hits and 22 walks over 43 2/3 innings for a 6.18 ERA. He'll likely take part in the Cubs' November workouts in Mesa, Ariz.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.