Well, the roster is really taking shape, and it’s taking the shape of a hulking, 29 year old rookie. Micah Hoffpauir is going to make the Chicago Cubs.
“Hoffpauir’s fine,” Piniella said. “We’re going to use him to rest Derrek (Lee) at first base and also we’re going to use him some in the (outfield) corners.” Daily Herald.
Hoffpauir has hit excellently in Spring Training and can back up first base and the corner outfield spots, so in that regard, his making the team is not surprising. But what it means for the rest of the bench makes it pretty darn surprising.
Though Piniella has surreptitiously been pushing to carry only 11 pitchers so that he can have a six-man bench, he hasn’t really made much headway in that regard, recently admitting that if he only carried 11 pitchers, pitching coach Larry Rothschild might have a heart attack.
So that said, the Cubs look almost certain to use just a five-man bench. Three spots are unequivocally spoken for: Aaron Miles, Reed Johnson, and the backup catcher.
That leaves two spots to be divvied up among Micah Hoffpauir, Joey Gathright, Corey Koskie, Esteban German, and another other backup infielder the Cubs decide might be worth a look.
If you shift Hoffpauir over into the unequivocal section, that leaves just one more spot. Nobody really expected Joey Gathright to be bumped off the team – but Hoffpauir may have just done that. Consider that Piniella has been adamant about having another backup infielder on the team. Can the Cubs really make it through the year with only Aaron Miles backing up in the infield (or Fontenot or Theriot on the days Miles starts)? And what about the days when Aramis Ramirez needs a rest? Then the Cubs have Miles, Fontenot and Theriot all in the starting lineup, with essentially no backup.
So if Hoffpauir is going to make this team, and if the Cubs will have only a five-man bench, it’s hard to imagine Gathright making the team. Frankly, he’s superfluous anyway. Johnson can back up all the outfield spots, and Hoffpauir can back up the corners.
Gathright signed a major league deal for $800k, so there’s a little bit of pain associated with dumping him, but unless he learns how to play adequate third base or shortstop real fast, it doesn’t look like he has a spot.
Sidebar: apparently the expression “in like Flynn” not only means quickly or emphatically successful, but it also has a sexual connotation. That learned, I stick by the title.