With Opening Day a little over two weeks away, the Chicago Cubs’ 25 man roster is beginning look clearer and clearer as the days pass by. Coming into camp, the Cubs had several position battles to determine spots on the 25 man roster.
The most noted battle has been the battle for the fourth and fifth spots in the Cubs’ starting rotation. At various points throughout camp, Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez, Andy Sonnanstine, Travis Wood, Randy Wells, Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija were all mentioned as potential candidates for final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation. As the Cubs have progressed through the Cactus League schedule, Wood, Wells, Samardzija, and Volstad have emerged as the finalists for the final spots in the Cubs’ rotation. Samardzija and Volstad have all but locked down the final two spots in the rotation with their impressive Spring performances. Randy Wells will likely head to the bullpen, while Travis Wood has pitched his to the Iowa Cubs’ starting rotation.
To go along with the starting rotation, the Cubs also have to figure the remaining pieces to fill their bullpen. With Carlos Marmol, James Russell, Kerry Wood, and one starting pitcher–Wells, Vosltad, Wood, or Samardzija–being the four known pitchers in the Cubs’ bullpen, manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio have been looking for three arms to put in the bullpen. The candidates to fill those spots are Casey Coleman, Rafael Dolis, Lendy Castillo, Trever Miller, Scott Maine, Marcos Mateo, and Frankie De La Cruz. The latter of who the Cubs’ recently claimed off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. Dolis has impressed Sveum and Bosio to the point where the rookie is expected to be the compliment to Kerry Wood as a set-up man. Lendy Castillo is the Cubs’ Rule V draft pick, meaning if he does not make the Cubs roster he will be sent back to the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Castillo has yet to pitch beyond the Double A level, but the pitcher has only given up one run in his seven innings of work this Spring. The Cubs may try to work out a trade with the Phillies in order to keep Castillo with the organization, but, I get the feeling that Castillo will be on the 25 man roster. Trever Miller, who would be another veteran to go in the bullpen in addition to Kerry Wood, may take a spot in the bullpen based on his previous experience.
Unlike the pitching staff, the positions players for the most part are set. The Cubs already know who their eight starting position players will be, the competition now exists for the three final spots on the bench. Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker are the only two players that are known to be on the bench. The final three spots will go to a backup catcher, utility infielder, and fifth outfielder.
The Cubs signed former Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo to a minor league contract earlier this off-season, and the belief was Jaramillo would be the primary backup to Geovany Soto. However, Jaramillo struggled to be noticed in Spring Training as the catcher dealt with quad injury. For that reason, Jaramillo was optioned. Leaving the backup catcher’s position to either Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger. Castillo and Clevenger has both been impressive this Spring and Sveum admitted a decision between the two likely will not come until the final days of camp. Castillo is likely the Cubs’ catcher of the future, but, Clevenger will likely be the backup to begin the season as the Cubs may want Castillo to play everyday.
In regards to the utility spot on the Cubs’ bench, the battle is between Blake DeWitt and Adrian Cardenas. The Cubs’ initially designated DeWitt for assignment to make room for Cardenas, who they claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Cardenas is out of minor league options and with him being younger and more cost-effective than DeWitt, the belief was that he would be the DeWitt’s replacement on the bench. But after DeWitt went unclaimed on waivers, the Cubs brought the former Los Angeles Dodger back on a minor league deal. DeWitt has outperformed Cardenas this spring, but, Cardenas has increased his efforts of late. With Cardenas already having a roster spot, I am going give upper hand to Cardenas to be the Cubs’ utility infielder off the bench.
The battle for the Cubs’ fifth outfielder’s spot is perhaps where the biggest surprise of camp has occurred. Joe Mather, who the Cubs brought in on a minor league deal, has been the Cubs’ best position player this Spring. Mather has displayed an impressive duo threat of power and speed while playing all three outfield spots in addition to third base. Mather is also capable of playing first base as well. Tony Campana was expected to be on the 25 man roster, but in light of Mather’s Spring, it would seem that Campana is facing an uphill battle for a spot on the roster. It would seem to appear that Mather has earned himself a spot on the roster, while Campana will be running to Iowa.
Topics: Adrian Cardenas, Blake DeWitt, Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs, Chris Volstad, James Russell, Jason Jaramillo, Jeff Samardzija, Joe Mather, Kerry Wood, Lendy Castillo, Rafael Dolis, Randy Wells, Steve Clevenger, Tony Campana, Travis Wood, Trever Miller, Welington Castillo