With the roster moves and announcements the Cubs made on Thursday, the Opening Day roster is almost set. Mike Olt and Ryan Kalish made the Cubs roster and will be with the team in Pittsburgh on Monday. Olt and Kalish reported to camp healthy and ready to compete for a job with the big league team and both players were able to accomplish their goals. And now the work really begins for both players. It is hard to make it to the big leagues but it is even harder to stay in the big leagues.
The Cubs will begin the season with 13 position players on the 25-man roster. Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt, Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney, Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Kalish, Welington Castillo and John Baker will be introduced on Opening Day along with Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, James Russell, Wesley Wright and Carlos Villanueva.
According to multiple reports, the Cubs will decide on the three spots left on the pitching staff at some point during the weekend. If Carlos Villanueva is named the fifth starter, which is very likely, Chris Rusin will begin the season in Iowa with Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon starting the year in the Cubs’ pen. But if Rusin is in the Cubs’ rotation, the last two spots in the pen will go to two of the three relievers.
Starlin Castro played all nine innings of a minor league game on Thursday. The Cubs and Castro say he is 100 percent and will be in the lineup for the last two practice games of the spring. Castro is expected to be all nine innings of the two games at Chase Field.
The Cubs have options on the roster if Castro is not able to play by Opening Day. But if he steps on the field for Friday night’s game, the Cubs will not be able to backdate a trip to the DL.
According to multiple reports, John Baker was quite emotional and candid when he spoke to the beat writers about make the Cubs Opening Day roster. Baker will begin the season as the back-up backstop to Welington Castillo, a job that Baker’s father thought he would land a couple of weeks ago. Baker’s father bought tickets to see him play in Chicago two weeks ago because he believed his son would make the team according to the Sun-Times.
ESPN Chicago reported the Cubs were honest with Baker about his chances of earning a job in Spring Training. Baker liked the way the Cubs were upfront with him and said that was all he could ask for.
According to a report from the Tribune, John Baker “said winning the Cubs’ backup catching job felt validating, especially after what he went through last year in San Diego.” Baker explained, “Getting sent down because someone was taking steroids and coming back off the steroid thing, and then getting hurt in the first minor league game I was playing in and traveling all over the place, dragging my family all over the map.” Baker was referring to losing his job to Yasmani Grandal.
Ryan Kalish received an early birthday present Thursday when he was told he had made the team. Kalish turns 26 on Friday and admitted to the beat writers he “got rather emotional after learning of his promotion.”
Theo Epstein sees Kalish as part of the team’s future. Injuries derailed the one-time top prospect that is only 26 years old.
The Cubs have flexibility with Kalish to keep him in the organization if he struggles. Kalish was called up to the Red Sox in July of 2010 and spent the rest of the season in Boston. Kalish was optioned down in both 2011 and in 2012 before spending the entire 2013 season on the 60-day DL. Kalish has one more minor league option year left.
The Cubs sold Chang-Yong Lim’s rights to his former team, the Samsung Lions. The Cubs signed Lim to a two-year minor league contract in 2012 in the hopes he would be able to bounce back from his second Tommy John surgery and help fill a hole in the pitching staff. Chang-Yong Lim struggled last September and did not pitch well enough this spring to make the team.
According to reports from South Korea, Lim agreed to a one-year contract with the Lions that will pay him $465,000 (US Dollars) to pitch in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
News and Notes
Mike Olt has a good shot at being the Cubs’ everyday third baseman this season, if he performs. Olt should be at third on Opening Day, especially if Francisco Liriano is on the hill for the Pirates. Olt said Thursday that he knew his vision issues were behind him the first pitch he saw in live batting practice this spring … exactly what Jason McLeod said would happen.
Look for Rick Renteria to play matchups early in the year with the balanced roster (six right-handed bats, six left-handed bats, one switch hitter) he has been handed.
Welington Castillo is ready to step up as a leader according to a report from Bruce Levine.