The Cubs finalized their Opening Day roster today by adding Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Kalish, John Baker, and Brian Schlitter to the 40-man roster, while also putting pitchers James McDonald, Jake Arrieta, and Kyuji Fujikawa on the disabled list. After the moves, the 40-man roster is full, and the 25-man roster is ready to go for tomorrow.
I hinted shortly after he left a Spring start when his shoulder felt a bit off that the Cubs would be taking it very conservative with James McDonald, who missed almost all of 2013 with shoulder issues. Even I didn’t expect it to be quite this conservative: today, the Cubs put McDonald on the 60-day DL, meaning that he won’t be eligible to pitch with the team until about May 21, at the earliest.
The loss to the Cubs there isn’t too great, as the bullpen is full and the rotation spot will be ably handled by Carlos Villanueva and Jake Arrieta. It’s a bummer that there will almost certainly now be no real shot to gain any flip value from McDonald, but it’s mostly just a bummer for McDonald, himself. Maybe he’ll be able to get back to where he needs to be by late May, or maybe he ends up contributing out of the pen this year. For now, the reality is that he’ll fade a bit into the background.
Unlike McDonald, and somewhat surprisingly, reliever Kyuji Fujikawa does not go on the 60-day DL, just the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 21. That means the Cubs are theoretically holding out hope that he could return to the team before May 21, which would be on the quick end of a Tommy John return (he had his surgery last year on June 11, so even a late May return would have been good speed, even for a reliever). Occasionally you do see relievers return in 10 or 11 months, so it’s possible Fujikawa is ready to go within a few weeks. That would be quite a boon to the bullpen, assuming he’s regained the effectiveness that made him such a weapon in Japan before he came to the Cubs last year.
That said, keep this in mind: the Cubs needed just one more 40-man spot at this point, and, with McDonald going on the 60-day DL, the Cubs got what they needed. Might as well put Fujikawa on the 15-day DL for now, even if you think it’s highly unlikely he’s ready before May 21. At any point in the next few weeks when you need a 40-man spot, Fujikawa can be moved to the 60-day DL.
Arrieta goes to the 15-day DL, also retroactive to March 21, which was expected. He’ll continue getting ready for the season, and could be back in the rotation by mid-to-late April. Carlos Villanueva will hold down Arrieta’s rotation spot until he is ready to go.