The Tight Roster Fit at the End of the Cubs' Bench, Awkward Cardinals Moment, and Other Bullets

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The Tight Roster Fit at the End of the Cubs’ Bench, Awkward Cardinals Moment, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I am off to Arizona for more hot Spring Training action, so please excuse any travel-related bumps and bruises in the coverage through the day. I reckon you won’t notice too much, though.

  • Mark Gonzales writes about Matt Szczur, the useful player and very good guy he is, and the difficult roster decisions that will soon face the Cubs. With Szczur out of minor league options, the Cubs will have to carry him on the Opening Day 25-man roster, or expose him to waivers before he could be outrighted to the minors. As Gonzales notes, the Yankees, Phillies, and Brewers all expressed interest last year, which only underscores how extremely unlikely it is that Szczur would make it through waivers at this point – there are too many teams that would probably love to give him a look, or at least could be in a better place to stash him.
  • For the Cubs, it’s not as if Szczur is not a big league caliber player – he clearly is, especially in a complementary role. Szczur runs well, can play solid defense across the outfield, has demonstrated the ability to pinch hit, and would be a good medium-term fill-in if there were a rash of injuries. But with the Cubs expected to carry just four bench players out of the gate, and with three of those spots spoken for (Javy Baez, Jon Jay/Albert Almora, and Miguel Montero), if everyone is healthy, the decision will come down to Szczur and Tommy La Stella, who would give the Cubs an extra infielder and a lefty bat off the bench.
  • John Lackey highlighted the one concern you’d have about going with a five-and-a-half-man rotation (that’s about the best one-liner I can come up with to describe a five-man rotation that is frequently augmented with a sixth starter swinging in and out), noting that starting pitchers like their routines (CSN). Adding a sixth starter in and out of the rotation could be more disruptive than it is valuable. Which, yup, that’s the concern. The data shows, though, that most pitchers are better with more rest (to say nothing of health), regardless of the routine, so as long as the front four starters buy in from a mental standpoint – and Lackey, for example, didn’t suggest he was going to complain or anything like that – I still think the upside is worth the risk.
  • A little profile on Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. in the Sun-Times, which features this knockout quote from Edwards on his eating habits: “I’ve actually been trying that Carl’s Jr. First of all, because — hello — I’m Carl Jr. So I’ve been eating some Carl’s Jr. burgers. It’s been pretty good.”
  • Team Italy was defeated in the WBC last night in the 9th inning by Venezuela, which means Cubs prospect John Andreoli is coming back to the Cubs. He homered in the game, and overall had a tremendous WBC. He’ll head to AAA Iowa to open the season, continuing in his role as Cubs depth – but he remains a guy to watch.
  • Casey Kelly was cut from big league camp yesterday, but he’ll get an opportunity with the Cubs in the upper minors to right the ship. You shouldn’t expect that he’s pouting about it, though, if this interview with David Laurila is any indicator. Although the interview took place before the roster move, check out Kelly’s attitude about a career that started out so promising, and has seemingly stalled out after surgery and ineffectiveness: “Everybody has their own journey, and mine just took a little bit longer. It is what it is. But I feel healthy now — my arm feels normal again — and I’m excited to see what this year has in store for me.” You can see more here. The dude is just positive. I like it.
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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.