Cubs have two weeks to figure out their backup catcher situation

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

We know Willson Contreras will be penciled into the lineup behind the dish come Opening Day. But where the Chicago Cubs turn on his off days remains to be seen.

Chicago inked veteran backstop Austin Romine to a one-year deal this offseason in hopes of him serving as Contreras’ backup after they traded Victor Caratini to the Padres in the Yu Darvish deal. Romine, 32, is an 11-year big league veteran and looked like a good fit – at least on paper.

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But a recent report sure makes it seem like the knee issue he battled last season in Detroit is very much a threat to keep him sidelined long enough to where he won’t be ready for Opening Day.

"“He’s still dealing with some soreness,” manager David Ross told “He’s feeling better daily, but it’s just been a really slow process. You can imagine, being a catcher, with the knee barking and then swelling up on him, it’s just still taking a minute.”"

This means the Cubs now have another battle on their hands as Cactus League action winds down – one between Jose Lobaton, who is in camp on a minor league deal, and catching prospect PJ Higgins – who we recently identified as an under-the-radar presence in camp. 

Cubs should go with Higgins, with an eye on the future

Higgins has been a solid performer this spring and has his eye set on making his big league debut this season. Romine’s injury is a perfect opportunity for the former 12th-round pick out of Old Dominion to make that jump.

Last year, without an MiLB season, doesn’t tell us too much about Higgins. But in 2019, split between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, he put up solid numbers, batting .281/.349/.416 and throwing out a whopping 41 percent of base stealers.

Higgins isn’t exactly young. In fact, he turns 28 in May. But given the fact the Cubs are eyeing the future – one, perhaps, that doesn’t include Contreras, you can’t go with a 36-year-old Lobaton in this situation.

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The team can make the most of an less-than-ideal scenario with the Romine injury by giving Higgins a look to open the year. He’s performed at every level – and this could be his chance to make an impact at the big league level.