Neil Ramirez reportedly is the frontrunner for the final spot on the Cubs roster … Munenori Kawasaki still a possibility for a backup role
With Spring Training winding down, the Cubs have at least one spot still open on the first 25-man roster of the season.
It’s been reported for weeks, the last spot on the roster would come down to the Cubs carrying eight relievers or a fifth position player on the bench.
The Sun-Times reported Neil Ramirez is the frontrunner for the 25th roster spot, which would mean the Cubs begin the season with 13 pitchers and 12 position players. But an injury to Javier Baez could open a spot for Munenori Kawasaki and it might make Joe Maddon and the front office rethink their plans for the outfield.
It is common knowledge among Cubs fans by now that Neil Ramirez is out of minor league options. Ramirez was a bright spot during the 2014 season when he lit up the radar gun with his electric fastball that regularly touched the upper-90s.
Ramirez missed most of last season, mainly due to a shoulder injury. Ramirez is healthy this spring, still building up his shoulder and has pitched his way into the conversation for the last spot on the Opening Day roster.
Reports have suggested the Cubs could be leaning toward starting the season with 13 pitchers, eight relievers, to keep from losing Ramirez. He will not clear waivers if the Cubs try to send him through.
According to Patrick Mooney, the Cubs have liked what they’ve seen from Ramirez this spring even without his dominate stuff. Ramirez’s velocity is down (91-93 mph, topping out at 94 mph this spring) from where it was two years ago.
Joe Maddon said the way Ramirez has pitched might force Cubs to do something.
Joe Maddon said it would likely take an injury for Munenori Kawasaki to make the Opening Day roster. At the time it was believed that Maddon was talking about Tommy La Stella because he had not played in a Cactus League game in almost three weeks.
Maddon used La Stella off the bench in back-to-back games (Friday and Saturday).
Now it appears an injury to Javier Baez could lead to Kawasaki being with the Cubs in Anaheim on Opening Day. Baez’s thumb injury has created an opening for Kawasaki.
According to ESPN Chicago, the Cubs are not sure when Baez will play again. Maddon said he hasn’t heard “anything negative in a long-term sense.”
Maddon said Friday he would load Baez up with at bats over the final week of the exhibition to make sure he’s ready. But Baez has played only one game since jamming his thumb diving headfirst into the first base bag eight days ago (March 19).
Maddon assured the beat writers Saturday that Kawasaki is a viable option for the Opening Day roster.
Matt Szczur is out of options and it appears the Cubs will try to send him through waivers. Teams like the Phillies have been monitoring Szczur. It’s believed a team will claim Szczur as soon as he is placed on waivers.
It appears the Cubs will begin the season with four outfielders on the active roster and not a late-inning defensive replacement for either Kyle Schwarber or Jorge Soler. Javier Baez could be an option in center if he’s on the active roster. He has not played a corner spot yet this spring.
Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist can play outfield and would give Maddon options without a true outfielder like Szczur or Shane Victorino on the bench. And the Cubs could always dip into the minors after the season starts and call up John Andreoli or Juan Perez.
As the final week of the exhibition season begins, Matt Szczur appears on the outside looking in at a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.
The Cubs cut nine players from the roster on Friday which officially reduced the Spring Training roster to 36 players. But there are four players still on the spring roster that will not break camp with the team.
Zac Rosscup was placed on the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Dexter Fowler. And Christian Villanueva broke his leg early in camp. Rosscup, Villanueva, Shane Victorino and RHP Aaron Crow are officially on the spring roster.
The Cubs have seven players to cut from the spring roster before next Sunday’s deadline.
As it currently stands, the Cubs first roster of the season will include:
• Pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, Clayton Richard, Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon
• Position Players: Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Javier Baez, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Miguel Montero, David Ross
Joe Maddon said the Cubs would like to have the first roster of the season set before the team leaves Arizona for the two games with the Mets in Las Vegas. The Cubs last game in the Valley is Wednesday.
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