All 25-man Opening Day rosters must be finalized by April 2, the official start to the 2006 regular season. The Cubs won't open the season until Monday, April 3 at 1:10 p.m. CDT against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark. The game can be seen on WGN.
"It's frustrating to have to go back and prove myself again at Triple-A," said Hill, 6-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 11 games at Iowa last season. "Things happen for a reason. Hopefully, I'll go down there, pitch well and get [to Chicago] as soon as possible."
The current Cubs roster is made up of 14 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders and five outfielders.
With Hill being optioned to Triple-A, 23-year-old left-hander Sean Marshall now appears set for a back-end spot in the rotation.
Marshall made 16 starts last year between Class-A Daytona and Double-A West Tenn. He has not allowed a run this spring in 10 1/3 innings.
A Florida State League all-star with Daytona, Marshall was 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 12 starts for the Class-A affiliate last season. He was shut down in July as the result of bicep tendonitis.
"[Marshall] came out this spring and has done very well," acknowledged Hill. "I still think that me pitching a full season and doing as well as I did last year has more solidity than anything in spring training, but if I do well at Iowa, I'll be back up there."
Right-hander Jerome Williams, widely considered a favorite as either the fourth or fifth starter from the beginning of camp, is now struggling to stay afloat in the race for a spot in the rotation and could be relegated to the bullpen. He is 1-3 with an 8.00 ERA and nine walks in 18 innings this spring.
With three off-days in their first two weeks, the Cubs may not require the use of a fifth starter until April 15.