The Cubs all but finalized their Opening Day roster prior to Friday night’s exhibition at Chase Field. Carlos Villanueva was named the Cubs’ fifth starter and Chris Rusin was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs needed the flexibility Villanueva can provide early in the season. The team is committed to having Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood pitch on a five-day routine. So, with an off-day the fifth starter would get pushed. Villanueva will make his first start on April 6 against the Phillies in the Cubs’ sixth game of the season.
The Cubs have three spots in the bullpen to fill and it was thought that once Villanueva was named the fifth starter, Justin Grimm, Alberto Cabrera and Hector Rondon would take those spots and be in the bullpen on Opening Day in Pittsburgh. But that is not the case.
Jed Hoyer said Friday morning the Cubs could recall one, or more, of the relievers the team has already optioned down or reassigned to minor league camp. Apparently the front office and coaching staff is not happy with what they’ve seen from at least one of the relievers. The Cubs have the flexibility of recalling a reliever that was already optioned because of the three pitchers that will soon be placed on the disabled list. By rule, a player can be recalled prior to the 10-day minimum if he is replacing an injured player on the active roster.
Jed Hoyer indicated that five or six guys are in the mix for the last three spots in the pen. Alberto Cabrera is out of options and the Cubs would like to keep him, but he has really struggled while falling back into old habits. Cabrera is not the only one of the three relievers that struggled late in the spring. Justin Grimm has not been effective as well. What was thought a week ago to be a given, might not be the case anymore with Alberto Cabrera and his days with the Cubs might be coming to an end.
According to multiple reports, the Cubs brought a host of relievers to Chase Field on Friday night and a majority of them will be there for the spring finale on Saturday afternoon. Zac Rosscup, Neil Ramirez, Blake Parker, Brian Schlitter, Jonathan Sanchez, Marcos Mateo, Starling Peralta and Armando Rivero were among the relievers that made the trip from Mesa on Friday night.
Neil Ramirez and Blake Parker, along with non-roster invitee Brian Schlitter, appear to be the top three options for one of the spots in the pen. Ramirez and Parker are on the 40-man roster while Schlitter is not. But if the Cubs decide Cabrera is not the right option to start the season in the pen then a reliever like Schlitter could take his spot on the 40-man roster.
The Cubs have until 2:00pm CDT on Sunday to set their Opening Day roster.
The Cubs said Friday Starlin Castro will play in the spring finale on Saturday afternoon. The team gave Castro a day off on Friday after he played all nine innings in a minor league game on Thursday.
Jed Hoyer said Castro is ready for Opening Day. The team was being cautious with Castro to make sure he does not have a problem with the hamstring all season. Castro played in two Cactus League games prior to the injury and was 2-for-2 with a double and a RBI in three plate appearances. Castro was hit in the third at bat on March 2.
Tyler Beede reportedly struggled with his command on Friday night and completed just five innings. Beede pitched into the sixth inning but was lifted from the game before he could record an out. Beede took the loss after allowing three runs on five hits with three walks, four strikeouts and three hit batters.
News and Notes
According to Jed Hoyer, Jake Arrieta is three to four weeks behind the other starters at this point. The Cubs are hoping he can join the rotation around the third week of the season. The Cubs are not going to rush him back. He will go on a rehab assignment once the team feels he is ready.
The I-Cubs are gearing up for the season with an Open House on Saturday from 10:00am to 2:00pm at Principal Park. Iowa’s season kicks off Thursday at 6:35pm against the Memphis Redbirds.
Jim Bowden thinks Javier Baez will be one of the top five players in baseball by 2019 while joining Davey Johnson, Rogers Hornsby and Ryne Sandberg as the only second basemen in the history of the game to hit 40 home runs in a single season.