Javier Baez’s jammed left thumb is impacting Cubs roster decisions
With six days left before the deadline for teams to finalize Opening Day rosters, the Cubs first roster of the season is all but set.
Joe Maddon announced his rotation Sunday. The Cubs will begin the year with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks as the starting five. Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Travis Wood and Clayton Richard will be in the bullpen with Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm.
Neil Ramirez is reportedly the frontrunner for the 25th spot on the Opening Day roster. Ramirez is out of options and the Cubs like what they have seen from him this spring. But according to the Tribune, the Cubs “are waiting for assurances that Javier Baez’s left thumb is healed before setting their Opening Day roster.”
Baez jammed his left thumb sliding headfirst into first base and has not played in a Cactus League game since March 20. Baez could return to the lineup Monday. Baez told ESPN Chicago that he expects to play in Monday’s Cactus League game against the Angels.
Joe Maddon said Sunday that Baez shook his hand and wished him a Happy Easter. Maddon took that as a sign that Baez is “feeling pretty good.”
Baez’s status could have an impact on the roster the Cubs break camp with this week.
Neil Ramirez is the favorite for the last spot. But if Baez is still having problems with the left thumb, the Cubs might start the season with Munenori Kawasaki and Matt Szczur according to Mark Gonzales and Carrie Muskat.
The Cubs see Javier Baez as the team’s backup at shortstop, second base, third base, first base and center field. Baez has not played a corner spot in the outfield, but Maddon said he would not hesitate playing Baez at any position on the field.
Kawasaki would give the Cubs a backup infielder at shortstop and second base. And Szczur would provide Maddon a true outfielder on his bench that can handle all three spots defensively.
It’s believed the Cubs are leaning toward beginning the season with a 13-man pitching staff, eight relievers. When asked about Ramirez on Sunday, Maddon would not say he had made the Opening Day roster.
Maddon said there is still time to get Baez at-bats over the next week and have him ready to go when the season starts.
Javier Baez has looked good in the field for the most part. Offensively, he has struggled. Spring Training numbers are Spring Training numbers, but there have been more out of control at-bats from Baez this spring than quality plate appearances.
The Cubs would like to have the first roster of the season finalized by the time the team leaves Mesa for Las Vegas on Wednesday. Based on Baez’s thumb and play, the decisions on the final spots might have to wait until later in the week.