There was one thing that stood out when Friday’s updated starting lineup was released, a lot has changed for the Cubs since Opening Day in Pittsburgh. One hundred and forty games later, not a single player that took the field against the Pirates on the last day of March was in the starting lineup for the beginning of the last series of the season with the Bucs at Wrigley Field. And Luis Valbuena and John Baker were the only two players in the starting lineup that broke camp on the Cubs 25-man roster.
Granted if Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro were healthy enough to play both of the Cubs All-Stars would have been on the field. But that was not the case Friday afternoon.
The starting lineup on March 31 was Emilio Bonifacio (CF), Junior Lake (LF), Starlin Castro (SS), Anthony Rizzo (1B), Mike Olt (3B), Welington Castillo (C), Nate Schierholtz (RF), Darwin Barney (2B) and Jeff Samardzija. And the Opening Day Roster included Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva, Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, James Russell, Wesley Wright, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Brian Schlitter, John Baker, Luis Valbuena, Ryan Sweeney, Justin Ruggiano, and Ryan Kalish.
Rick Renteria’s lineup Friday was Arismendy Alcantara (CF), Javier Baez (SS), Luis Valbuena (3B), Jorge Soler (RF), Chris Coghlan (LF), Chris Valaika (1B), Logan Watkins (2B), John Baker (C) and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Friday’s starting lineup was in fact closer to the starting-nine Marty Pevey ran out against the Memphis Redbirds on April 3. Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and Chris Coghlan started for Iowa and Chris Valaika pinch-hit for Yoanner Negrin in the first game of Iowa’s season.
Before the roster expanded last Monday and the additions made to the active roster of the 10 players from the system, only Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carlos Villanueva, Travis Wood, Wesley Wright, Welington Castillo, John Baker, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro were still on the active roster that were with the team in Pittsburgh for the first game of the season.
Change has been on the only constant for the Cubs at the big league level in the almost three seasons Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been calling the shots.
Nine different players have made their big league debuts this year. And when Rafael Lopez pinch-hit for Brian Schlitter Tuesday night he became the 112th different player used by the Cubs since the start of the 2012 season.
But for the first time since August 2009, the arrow is pointing up for the Chicago Cubs as the season winds down.
Since the All-Star break, the Cubs are 24-22, and since July 28 the Cubs are second (22-15) to only the Nationals for the best record in the National League.
And the positive momentum that has been created over the last six weeks should to carry into the off-season as the front office tries to add the right pieces to the young roster.