All But the Bullpen is Set for Opening Day and Other Cubs News

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.

Starlin Castro

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

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.

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Quote of the Day

"And if I have my choice between a pennant and a triple crown, I'll take the pennant every time." - Carl Yastrzemski
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  • TheWrongGuy

    I agree with your report on Cabrera Neil. He seems to rush his delivery at times(when he is behind in the count or needs to make a strike). Rondon at times is also guilty of this yet to a lesser degree, he seems to try and over-throw(97mph last night) pitches too much.

    Rosscup looked good last night he was painting the outside corner against lefties(92-94mph last night).
    Neil Ramirez also looked good. I haven’t seem him much this St but what I saw I have liked(he throws strikes).
    Schlitter and B. Parker seem to be almost the same pitcher(average stuff that plays up at times due to good command, but when their command is bad they get “hammer’d”)
    A. Rivero looks like a solid young “thrower”(98mph last night on the gun) but not much command.

    Tough call for the last spots in the pen.

    Good reporting Neil! Thanks to you and all you do for us brotherly and sisterly Cub Fans!

  • Tony_H

    I couldn’t believe GW actually put this quote in his article, but it does say a lot about this team. Yes, the top of the roster needs to keep getting better and deeper into the roster, but the quality at the bottom of the roster has improved. The bullpen has good arms not making the team, the Cubs have Rusin who pitched well last year and all but one outing this spring heading to Iowa and Villaneuva is only a fill in again this year. Plus a bench that has no room for Roberts and Coghlan tells a lot of about how far the Cubs have come from the Joe Mather days and needing to pick up other teams Roberts right before the regular season was to begin.

    “Right now, I think it talks about the strength of our team,” Villanueva said of the roster flux late in camp. “We have a way better team than we did. The fact that a lot of tough decisions came down to the wire lets people know that we’re not all thinking about the future right now.

    “The guys here are thinking about now. We want to win now.”

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/26505492-419/pens-state-its-still-in-flux-for-cubs.html

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      Villanueva must have not gotten the memo that he’s supposed to be “tanking.”

      • cubtex

        what is a player supposed to say? I was listening to mlb radio on my way home from a track meet last night and both guys predicted the Cubs will have the worst record in baseball this year. That is the national perception. I can’t see how this team will win games now with that starting rotation and middle of the lineup.

        • SuzyS

          While I don’t think we’ll make the playoff’s this year…I think we might all be pleasantly surprised with the team’s development.

        • GaryLeeT

          I heard that too. They were laughing at how one thought the other was too optimistic predicting 66 wins over his 62.

        • John_CC

          The national perception is based on last year and not all of the roster movement and the depth of the bench or greatly improved bullpen. I don’t expect the national outlet guys to know any of that. Saying this team will be the worst in baseball is assinine.

  • Eugene Debs

    You know, I may not have ever brought this up, but this site is awesome. Seriously, we may not all agree on everything, but what a great source for Cubs discussion and information. My wife is so happy because I don’t have to bring up Cubs stuff at dinner since there is a proper outlet to discuss the Cubs!

    That being said, let’s play ball!

  • mutantbeast

    Ive been saying since last year Cabrera has not improved, and it seems like he just wont reach his potential. He needs to be released.

    • Tony_H

      It does look like it will be his time.

  • Tony_H

    I think I have made my playoff picks.

    AL Wild Card – Tampa beats the Angels
    AL DIV Series – Boston over Tampa and Detroit over Oakland
    AL Championship Series – Detroit over Boston

    NL Wild Card – San Fran over Pittsburgh
    NL DIV Series – Washington over San Fran and St Louis over LA
    NL Championship Series – Washington over St Louis

    World Series – Detroit over Washington

    • SuzyS

      No Dodgers?

      • Tony_H

        I have St Louis over LA in the DIV series

        • SuzyS

          Just saw that…sorry..
          While it’s fun to pick…the baseball season is filled with so many twists an turns…I find it impossible to make that projection.
          I remember when Wood and Prior were on the cover of SI and the Cubs were projected to win it all…(sigh).

    • cubtex

      I guess you are “shocked” since it looks like Schierholtz nor Barney will be dealt before opening day. As I said….doesn’t shock me. Teams will look elsewhere when the demands outweigh the value.

      • SuzyS

        On the other hand, Schierholtz and Barney may have more current value to the Cubs…then any other team.
        It means nothing that they have not been dealt yet.

        • cubtex

          just doesn’t shock me. They don’t have much value to other teams. When you have players like Alcantara or Baez who could be brought up in June…why hold onto Barney instead of just getting a bag of balls for him? You can play Bonifacio there. Do you really think Barney’s value will go up?

          • SuzyS

            Barney is a major leaguer with good defensive skills. As the season gets going, injuries will play a factor in Barney’s value.
            Bonifacio is a good utility player…not an everyday guy….until Alcantra/Baez prove they are ready…(Baez still needs to improve with defense and plate discipline. Barney provides good depth and insurance at the position. The same applies to Schierholtz.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I agree. These guys have value.

          • cubtex

            we will see but I don’t understand why they didn’t just move Schierholtz and Barney. Look at how valued David DeJesus was. Look around baseball and guys like Schierholtz….they don’t have much value. If you want to see what Kalish is all about….trade him. He is on the last year of his contract. Teams know who he is. A platoon outfielder. A lefthand hitting Jeff Baker.

          • SuzyS

            Kalish appears to be healthy…but when you consider the major procedures he has endured…I would not count on him just yet. July is the trade deadline…plenty of time to make a trade as needed.

          • cubtex

            yes but they have Coghlan to fall back on…BJax, Vitters, Szcur. Alot of options.

          • cubtex

            not that any of these guys could be long term options but neither is Schierholtz

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Very true

          • cubtex

            I just would rather see (as a fan) Bonifacio leading off playing 2nd base. Kalish playing everyday with Lake in the OF. Been there and done that with Barney and Schieroltz. These guys are not going to be a long term solution for the team. Bonifacio is not either but at least he can steal some bases and add a little excitement until Baez or Alcantara is given an opportunity.

          • SuzyS

            Cubtex, I can appreciate your sentiment….I’m not in love with either Schierholtz or Barney…and I do anticipate a trade during the season.
            Heck, my bellweather barometer to the Cubs being a better team is when there is little need for Valbuena on the roster.
            I don’t expect any of these trades to be earth shattering…but I’d like to see the Cubs add some catching depth or a decent reliever to the system.
            But it is not even April yet…I can wait awhile to see what might transpire.

          • GaryLeeT

            but I would not go as far to call them viable options.

          • cubtex

            No but look at the current outfield. It’s not like it would be a huge step backwards.

      • Tony_H

        Did I miss Opening Day?

        Comments like this are just meant to start an arguement.

        • cubtex

          when is opening day? Monday? Should I wait a day? It is not meant to argue but say it is not surprising. It takes 2 to argue. I am just pointing out a statement that you made about 1 or 2 players being moved “before” the start of the season.

          • Tony_H

            Still 2 days away. If you want to discuss my thought about what would happen before Opening Day that doesn’t end up happening, we can do it when the time has past.

            My post was about my predictions for the playoffs I was making before the season started. Do you have any?

          • cubtex

            In case you forgot this is from you.

            Tony_H

            3 days ago

            Great recap of the entire roster and job competition situations.

            I honestly will be shocked if Barney and Schierholtz don’t have new
            homes before Opening Day. Barney to either the Dodgers or Rangers and
            Schierholt to Detroit. Both of these players make great sense for these
            teams. Let’s trade Barney, Kottaras for another SP prospect from the
            Rangers.

          • Tony_H

            I remember and will discuss it when the time has past, not when it can still happen.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Who cares? It’s his prediction. It still could happen. They’ll be traded at some point, as you stated injuries will increase their value to others.

            If we make a prediction and it doesn’t come true why are we so heavily called out for it? It’s just a guess and gives us something to discuss. We’re not journalists or “Jimmy the Greek,” types that make our living picking games and the future. We’re just laymen talking. Who cares?

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            And just to add. If people want to make predictions and then hold each other’s feet to the flames when it doesn’t plan out please understand I’m not in on that. I may make “predicitons,” but if I do I’m going on my gut feeling or just plain old guesses. Basically I’m speaking out of my rear end. So please don’t hold me to them. I make my living in sales, not making predictions about future baseball events.

          • cubtex

            No not you Rider??? Speaking out of your rear end :)))

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Thought you’d appreciate that honest self-assessment Ray :))

          • BigJonLilJon

            Doesn’t look like a prediction… He simply stated he’d be shocked. Wait till Monday(opening day) and if Barney and Schierholtz are still on team, you can ask him if he’s shocked. Big deal. Looks like your trying to pick a fight with Tony….

      • GaryLeeT

        Exactly. Why shop at Neiman Marcus for toilet paper?

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        I was not able to respond earlier and you found the arguments you were looking for today.

        You can no longer bait readers into arguments. Please do not do it again. This is at least the second weekend in a row you’ve done this.

        • cubtex

          wasn’t trying to bait him but no problem.

          • John_CC

            Lol.

    • GaryLeeT

      The Pirates, and Reds will be lucky to do better than .500 this year.

      • SuzyS

        The Pirates need to add another solid SP to replace AJ Burnett…I can see them making a trade for one at the deadline…if they are close.