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Cubs' reliever Takahashi shaky in rare start

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Hisanori Takahashi knows there are no guarantees for a player who walks into major league camp with a minor league contract. That’s why he’s happy to fill any role for the Cubs.

Bidding for a spot in the bullpen, Takahashi started Wednesday and pitched three shaky innings in a 3-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.

The 37-year-old left-hander gave up three runs and five hits, including Lance Berkman’s first home run. He walked two and struck out four in his fourth appearance of the spring.

“It’s been a while since I started, maybe two or three years,” Takahashi said through a translator. “I’m happy about pitching those innings. There are areas I can fix, especially those two walks and the home run I allowed.”

Uncertainty is nothing new for Takahashi, who went to his first major league camp with the New York Mets in 2010 after signing a minor league contract with the club.

“I’ve played baseball a long time and feel I had a successful career in Japan, as well,” he said. “I was in the same spot with the Mets, so experience will play a big part.”

With the Mets, Takahashi appeared in 53 games, including 12 starts. But he’s been strictly a reliever since, pitching in 112 games the past two seasons for the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Takahashi, should he emerge from the six-player scrum for three bullpen spots, could fill needs ranging from a left-handed specialist to long relief.

“If he makes the team he could be that guy,” Sveum said before Wednesday’s game. “He’s been very durable. If the game dictates, he can pitch one (inning) or get a left-hander out. If the game dictates the other way, he can go two or three innings.”

Such a role would be just fine with Takahashi, who turns 38 next month.

“The goal I set for myself is to be that lefty out of the bullpen and being able to pitch multiple innings,” he said.

Rangers left-hander Robbie Ross allowed a first-inning solo homer to Scott Hairston but then retired 13 of his final 15 batters, including the last nine in a row. He gave up one run and four hits in four innings.

Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando, the team’s projected fourth starter, allowed a run and two hits in three innings. He struck out six and walked two.

Notes: Rangers OF Mike Olt was a late scratch because of an impacted wisdom tooth. He was sent to a dentist and is day to day. ... Cubs 2B Darwin Barney originally was in the starting lineup even though he’d already been given the day off. “He asked and I put him in there anyway,” Sveum said with a smile. Barney, who never made the trip to Surprise, was replaced by Edwin Maysonet. ... Sveum said SS Starlin Castro, sidelined with a sore left hamstring, could play Sunday or Monday. Utility man Brent Lillibridge (strained groin) could follow soon after. “Best way to put it is if it was the regular season, they’d be playing,” Sveum said. ... Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija went four innings in a “B’’ game, allowing five runs – four earned – on six hits with three strikeouts. Samardzjia, tabbed as the team’s Opening Day starter this week, also allowed a home run.

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