Countdown to Opening Night: 3 days
Joe Maddon said Wednesday that he expects the team’s first roster of the season to be finalized by Friday.
The Cubs made three spring roster cuts prior to Wednesday’s Cactus League finale. RHP Brian Schlitter, LHP Zac Rosscup and OF Junior Lake were optioned to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs technically have 32 players in camp, but only 28 players are healthy enough to start the season on the active roster.
The pitching staff is believed to be set. Lefty Drake Britton is still in camp but believed to be on the outside looking in. Britton is out of options. If he does not make the team, the Cubs will risk losing him. And Taylor Teagarden is ticketed for Iowa. That leaves three players for two spots.
OF Matt Szczur, OF Ryan Sweeney and INF Jonathan Herrera are in line for the two open spots on the roster.
The Cubs have reportedly been trying to move OF Ryan Sweeney but they haven’t found any takers yet. Sweeney is under contract for $1.5 million this season is owed a $500,000 buyout on a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
The 40-man roster currently stands at 40 players. A spot for Herrera, who signed a minor league contract with a non-roster invite to camp, could be opened by placing RHP Jacob Turner on the 60-day DL or if Drake Britton doesn’t make the team, a spot would be cleared when he has to be removed from the reserve roster.
The Cubs did not announce the order of the rotation Wednesday as expected.
Edwin Jackson is starting Friday’s game at Chase Field. Travis Wood was on the hill in Mesa for the Cubs’ spring opener and he’s scheduled to start Saturday’s spring finale at Chase Field. Kyle Hendricks is also scheduled to pitch against the Diamondbacks in the Cubs last exhibition game.
Travis Wood is expected to be the fourth starter in the rotation when the announcement is made. And Edwin Jackson appears bullpen bound in a long-relief, mop-up duty role.
The Cubs set a Spring Training attendance record this year … 222,415 fans attended games at beautiful Sloan Park this spring.
With 15 home games, the Cubs average attendance was 14,828.
The enthusiasm for the season could be felt at Sloan Park during the first weekend of games. There was interest in the games as well as learning about the players on the field and not just hanging out at a ballpark on a beautiful day in Arizona.
LHP Felix Doubront did not stay unemployed for long. According to Ken Rosenthal, Doubront signed a minor league contract with Toronto Blue Jays.
The Cubs granted Doubront his unconditional release last Saturday after a disappointing spring. Doubront reported to camp in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation and pitched his way off the roster.
Crews completed the installation of panels on the left field video board Wednesday. The board will be operational by Opening Night.
According to various photos (click here and scroll down for photos of Wrigley), the team was testing the ribbon boards down the first and third baselines. And the channel letters for the Budweiser sign in right field made their way to Wrigley on Wednesday and were installed.
Joe Maddon hasn’t made it official, but the Cubs are expected to start the season with a rotation of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood and Kyle Hendricks. And if that’s the route the Cubs’ skipper decides to take, here are the first match-ups of the season.
The Cardinals announced Wednesday that Mike Matheny will start the season with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez.
- April 5 – Jon Lester vs. Adam Wainwright (7:05pm CDT)
- April 7 – Jake Arrieta vs. Lance Lynn (7:05pm CDT)
- April 8 – Jason Hammel vs. John Lackey (1:20pm CDT)
LHP Andrew McKirahan was claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves. Reports suggested that McKirahan was on his way back to the Cubs after the Marlins placed him on waivers.
Miami selected the lefty in the Rule 5 Draft. After the Marlins deemed he wasn’t ready for the majors yet, he was placed on waivers and Atlanta picked him up. The Braves have a real need for a lefty reliever. Atlanta recently cut ties with James Russell and McKirahan has a real chance to stick on their roster.
The same rules apply, if McKirahan does not stay on the Braves’ 25-man roster for the entire season he can be offered back to the Cubs once he has cleared waivers.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Scott Miller spent three days with the Cubs, and it’s no joke according to Miller, the new-look Cubs are ready to win and win big in 2015.
• Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant hit 1-2-3 in the I-Cubs lineup Wednesday … with RHP Barret Loux on the mound.
• Jon Paul Morosi reported as of Wednesday morning the MLBPA has not decided if it will file a grievance against the Cubs for sending Kris Bryant to Triple-A Iowa to start the season. Morosi talked to Scott Boras about the situation and the Cubs decision.
• The Cubs are ready to compete after a five-year drought according to Bruce Levine.
• And according to Bruce Levine, while Kris Bryant is with Triple-A Iowa, the Cubs “need to decide whether to settle him into third base or the outfield this season.”
• Jesse Rogers asked, will Kris Bryant or Jorge Soler win Rookie of the Year?
• The Cubs were 15-15-1 in Cactus League play this spring. ESPN Chicago broke down the spring totals and provided a quick summary of the team’s time in Spring Training with two exhibition games left to play.
• Jason Hammel said the Wrigley Field construction “looks like Baghdad” but he’s excited to get back to Wrigley and knows “there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow there” according to reports from Comcast SportsNet and the Sun-Times. The players are ready to deal with the construction project. And there will be walk-up music for the players … no word yet if Joe Maddon has picked his for when he walks to the mound to change pitchers.
• Chris Bosio explained to Patrick Mooney why Jon Lester is ready for Opening Night.
• Joe Maddon hasn’t decided if Miguel Montero or David Ross will be behind the plate Sunday night. Based on David Ross catching Jon Lester in the minor league games, the safe bet would be on Ross starting Opening Night.
• According to a report from Carrie Muskat, “the Cubs may not have a regular third baseman or second baseman” early in the season. Maddon plans to use Arismendy Alcantara and Tommy La Stella in those spots, along with Mike Olt at third base.
• Ben Lindbergh previewed the NL Central and Grantland predicts the Cubs will finish third behind the Pirates and Cardinals … but not that far behind.
• The Chicago Cubs finally have a winning business plan according to Bloomberg.
• Joe Maddon talked to Carrie Muskat about the “Joe Maddon Italian Hoagie,” one of the new food items at Wrigley Field this year. Maddon approved the sandwich and “the recipe comes from Maddon’s family restaurant.” The Cubs’ skipper thinks the “fans are going to dig them.”
• According to Jon Heyman, the Reds and Johnny Cueto do not appear close to a long-term contract extension with the Opening Day deadline quickly approaching.
• Justin Grimm called the bullpen ‘The Silent Assassins.’ The relatively unknown relievers have a chance to pick up where they left off last year and be pretty good, especially with Joe Maddon calling the shots.
• Jake Arrieta is scheduled to make his final spring tune-up today (Thursday) in a minor league game.
And last, but not least, Jake Arrieta shared an experience he had with Kris Bryant on Twitter. Arrieta said, “Just engaged in a sensual hug with Kris Bryant, my oppo pop increased significantly.”
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs released Darnell McDonald
2013 – Cubs signed free agent Ryan Sweeney
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Randy Keisler
2006 – Cubs released Matt Skrmetta
2004 – Cubs signed free agent Damian Jackson
1999 – Cubs signed free agent Hideo Nomo
1983 – Mets traded Tom Veryzer to the Cubs for Rob Schilling and Craig Weissmann
1975 – Hisanori Takahashi, born
1970 – Jon Lieber, born
1966 – Cubs traded Bob Humphreys to the Washington Senators for Ken Hunt
1959 – Al Nipper, born
1953 – Hector Cruz, born
1937 – Dick Radatz, born
1930 – Art Ceccarelli, born
1917 – Cubs traded Jimmy Lavender and $5,000 to the Phillies for Al Demaree
1908 – Cubs chased an umpire at an exhibition game in Birmingham, Alabama. Umpire sued for $5,000 after claiming third baseman Harry Steinfeldt deliberately spiked him. It is unknown how the case was settled.
1881 – Joe Stanley, born
1878 – Jack Harper, born