CHICAGO -- The Cubs now have a dozen pitchers, selecting the contract of reliever Rodrigo Lopez on Saturday. Infielder Luis Valbuena cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa to make room on the 25-man roster.
Lopez, who signed a Minor League deal in January, appeared in six Spring Training games, including four starts. He will be used as the long man but in other ways as well, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
"Whenever you have a guy with a slider, the way he used it this spring, I think he's feeling it," Sveum said Saturday. "The flexibility [he provides] is great. He can go long, and you can stack three right-handers up in an inning and bring him in.
"He's a veteran guy who knows how to pitch, and I think with his slider being back where he wants it to be, he becomes more versatile through a whole lineup and through a game when you can use him," Sveum said.
With the switch, the Cubs now have a 12-man pitching staff.
The Cubs claimed Valbuena off waivers from the Blue Jays and he was on the Opening Day roster as the team went with 14 position players and 11 pitchers for one day.
Valbuena, 26, has a career .226 average in the big leagues with the Mariners and Indians over parts of the last four seasons. He was traded from Cleveland to Toronto last November and was in the Blue Jays camp this spring, where he batted .163 in 24 games.
LaHair pinch-hits, slated to start Sunday
CHICAGO -- Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair, sidelined for one week with tightness in his back, pinch-hit on Saturday and is expected to start Sunday in the series finale against the Nationals.
LaHair, who popped up in only at-bat Saturday, got treatment on Friday, an off-day, and has been able to hit off a batting tee.
"If everything goes good like it did [Friday] -- he's feeling great today -- he'll be in the lineup tomorrow," manager Dale Sveum said Saturday.
Jeff Baker started at first on Saturday for the second straight game.
Sveum settling in nicely in new city
CHICAGO -- Dale Sveum took advantage of Friday's off-day to outfit his Chicago apartment.
"[My daughter] said, 'You spent more money than I did when I moved into college,'" the new Cubs manager said Saturday.
Despite losing the season opener on Thursday to the Nationals, Sveum said he has been well received in the city. He's been recognized.
"I've had it a few times, but nothing off the charts, by no means," he said. "It'll happen more and more, not that you're putting yourself out there all the time. It's part of the game and being with the Chicago Cubs, that's part of it. There's nothing wrong with it. People have said nice things, and that's fine. It is what it is."
He has yet to see his face on a billboard, part of the Cubs' "Baseball is Better" ad campaign.
"You are going to be more familiar when you have a billboard," he said, laughing.
His old team, the Brewers, will definitely see it on their way to Chicago. There's one on the Illinois side of the Illinois-Wisconsin border next to Interstate 94.
Sveum: Wrigley winds affect game strategy
CHICAGO -- The elements were much more favorable for hitters on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Instead of blowing in from the northeast at 18 mph, it was a pleasant seven mph from the southwest.
Don Zimmer used to say the ballpark was actually Wrigley I and Wrigley II, depending on which way the wind was blowing. Does Cubs manager Dale Sveum need to manage differently?
"You're fighting and scratching for any kind of way you can possibly score," Sveum said of conditions when the wind is blowing in.
Ian Stewart and Alfonso Soriano were each robbed of potential home runs Thursday, and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit two that would've likely gone out.
"You do manage different [when the wind is blowing in], there's no question about it," Sveum said. "You can't sit around and wait, thinking somebody is going to hit a solo home run to win it or a three-run homer. That's just reality, and it's not going to happen."
Samardzija ready to make rotation return
CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija makes his first start of 2012 when he closes the Cubs' series against the Nationals on Sunday.
"It's definitely important to get off on the right foot," said Samardzija, who won a spot in the rotation with a solid Spring Training. "I preached all spring [about] getting off to a quick start as a team, so I can't say it's not the same for myself. It's important to do what you need to do to set the tone for the rest of the season."
The right-hander spent last season in the bullpen and has not started a Major League game since Sept. 26, 2010. He made three starts at the end of that season.
What should help Samardzija, 27, is following right-handers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza. He can study their video and how they approach the Nationals. Samardzija does like film work, and he'll watch his mistakes so he can correct them.
"I'm more of a video guy for myself," he said. "I like to watch and see what I was doing a little differently. I usually tend to pick up on mistakes I made. That's why we pay all these guys [in the video department] such big bucks -- they tell us what [the other team] can't hit."
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.