Spring Roster Down to 28

MESA, Ariz. -- Rich Hill had hoped for a spot at the back end of the Cubs' starting rotation coming out of Spring Training. The opportunity may still present itself later on, but for now Hill is the latest victim of big league cuts as the Cubs reduced their spring roster to 28 Wednesday.

Hill became the sixth active player dropped from the Cubs' spring roster this week. On Tuesday, OF Michael Restovich and catcher Casey Kopitzke were returned to minor league camp. Pitchers David Aardsma, Angel Guzman and Jae-Kuk Ryu were optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Injured starters Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were officially placed on the 15-day disabled list.

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.

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