The Cubs return to the field today following Monday’s day off with a pair of games … the regularly scheduled Cactus League contest with the Athletics and a B-Game earlier in the day against a different version of those same Athletics at the Cubs’ old spring stomping grounds, HoHoKam Park. (Updated 9:29am CDT: Cubs are playing the Diamondbacks in the B-Game at Sloan Park)
Roster decisions are coming for the Cubs and according to ESPN Chicago and Comcast SportsNet, Mike Olt has earned a spot on the roster this spring. The Cubs have not said who will be at third base on Opening Night but Joe Maddon has liked what he has seen from Olt in the field and swinging the bat.
Olt has enjoyed just being able to focus on baseball this spring and not the sore right shoulder or vision issues he dealt with last year.
According to Patrick Mooney, “Olt’s probably the most natural third baseman in camp, someone who can make an athletic barehanded play and make strong accurate throws from different angles.” Olt has shown this spring he can more than handle the position. And ESPN Chicago thinks Olt is by far the best defensive third baseman on the roster.
Olt has shown a lot of improvement at the plate with an improved approach and mechanics. This spring Olt is 8-for-30 in 13 games with a double, two home runs, seven walks and 12 strikeouts (.267/.405/.500) for a .905 OPS.
If Mike Olt makes the team out of Spring Training, which is expected, Olt could still have a roll on the team when Kris Bryant is promoted and help the Cubs win games this season.
Jon Lester completed his scheduled side session Monday and remains on schedule to start Thursday. Lester threw 50 pitches and also participated in PFP drills.
According to Mark Gonzales, “Lester emphasized he feels no pain.”
Lester indicated he still has a lot of work to do, but felt good after Monday’s throwing session. “We’ve still got a long ways to go,” Lester told the beat writers. “But I don’t think there’s any question mark for it. There’s no worry in my mind.”
C.J. Nitkowski retweeted his link from last season where he explained what a dead arm actually is and what it feels like for a pitcher … a must read to have a better understanding of what Jon Lester is dealing with right now.
Tony Clark, the head of the MLBPA, told ESPN Boston he is watching the Kris Bryant situation and the players union is paying attention to what is going on. Clark thinks it’s in every team’s best interest to put the best 25 players on its roster. And he is “assuming every team will make that decision at the end of camp.”
Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that if Bryant begins the season at the Triple-A level then the union should file a grievance against the Cubs “in order to restore his lost service time.” Rosenthal said the union “would stand little chance of winning the case.” Rosenthal went on to explain that he would do the same thing the Cubs appear to be planning to do with Bryant, send him down for a couple of weeks to gain the extra year of control. And Scott Boras being his agent would figure into Rosenthal’s reasoning to sacrifice two weeks for a full season.
Theo Epstein has maintained the Cubs will make a baseball decision when it is time to decide where Bryant will begin the season. Epstein said earlier this month that he doesn’t understand why the Cubs would need the union’s permission to send down a player that is not on the 40-man roster and has less than 300 appearances at the Triple-A level.
Scott Boras lashed out against Tom Ricketts last week. Epstein defended ownership saying he would be the one make the decision. Ricketts said Monday night that where Bryant begins the season is a “player personnel decision” and he’s not involved “in those kinds of things.”
The decision is coming and once the Cubs make the announcement there will be a rather long press conference whether he starts the year with the Cubs or the I-Cubs.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Jake Arrieta unofficially threw 89 pitches in a minor league game Monday according to Mark Gonzales.
• Scott Boras is now part of The Cubs Way according to Patrick Mooney. The Cubs are betting on Boras’ clients to take the Cubs where they want to go. Boras’ client list inside the Cubs organization includes: Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jake Arrieta, Chris Coghlan, Albert Almora and Billy McKinney.
• According to Nick Piecoro, Dave Stewart denied the Dioner Navarro rumors and said there is no room in the Diamondbacks budget for Navarro. Stewart said Gerald Laird will likely land the D-Backs’ backup catcher’s job. Former Cubs catcher Blake Lalli is still in the mix.
• Joe Maddon is maintaining mystery in roster calls according to ESPN Chicago. Both Matt Szczur and Junior Lake “have to be giving the Cubs some pause when it comes to Ryan Sweeney’s role on the team.” Rogers also pointed out that Maddon has been stressing defense and a player’s instincts when discussing the first possible roster of the season.
• According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant impressed Dexter Fowler last year while Fowler was on a rehab assignment in Triple-A. Fowler liked what he saw so much he told then Astros’ hitting coach John Mallee about Soler and Bryant.
• Albert Almora finally received some attention for the excellent spring he’s put together in big league camp. It’s all starting to click for Almora and his confidence is high according to the Sun-Times.
And last, but not least, the Astros’ George Springer had some advice for Kris Bryant.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs released Chang-Yong Lim
2012 – Cubs granted free agency to Andy Sonnanstine
2009 – Cubs released Erick Almonte
2002 – Cubs signed free agent Leo Estrella
2001 – Cubs released Randy Williams
2000 – Cubs released Chris Petersen
1990 – Starlin Castro, born
1983 – Chad Gaudin, born
1974 – Jamie Arnold, born
1970 – Cubs released Al Spangler
1968 – Cubs released Dick Radatz
1863 – Jim McCauley, born