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Cubs spring notebook: Roster cuts, Javy’s flash and Pederson’s place

3 years agoTony Andracki

MESA, Ariz. — It doesn’t matter if it’s spring training, a regular season game or the playoffs, Javy Báez’s flash is always on full display.

He went 0-for-2 at the plate in Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Brewers, but he was a human highlight reel on defense.

First he showed off his impressive arm:

And then came an early contender for play of the year:

“Just Javy Báez being a kid, playing a game,” Jason Heyward said as he joined the Marquee Sports Network broadcast for an in-game interview.

Those are the types of plays that have become commonplace for Báez throughout his time in Chicago.

Pederson’s place

Like Báez, Joc Pederson also cares not for the “exhibition” label on these games. He’s been absolutely locked in (or Joc’d in??) right now with a hit in 7 straight at-bats dating back to Tuesday.

After hitting a pair of blasts in Thursday’s victory, Pederson came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning Friday at Sloan Park and promptly laid down a bunt single to beat the shift. Two innings later, he ripped a double down the right-field line.

His updated spring training batting line:


That’s a 2.110 OPS in 19 at-bats.

Cubs manager David Ross wishes he could transport Pederson straight to the regular season.

“He’s in a special place,” Ross said. “If I could wrap him up and ship him off to Chicago and keep him right there, I would.

“He’s really smart, goes about his business the right way. It’s fun to watch him play and it’s nice that he’s having a great spring.”

Arrieta’s good sign

Jake Arrieta got the start in Friday’s tilt against the Brewers and pitched into the 4th inning, throwing 55 pitches in all.

The results don’t matter yet but Arrieta came away from his outing feeling positive while also having a clear focus of what he needs to work on in the next few days.

“Mechanically, still had quite a few things that I needed to tighten up,” he said. “Today was much better in that regard. Fatigued a little bit after the 3rd and I was glad that they sent me back out for the 4th to get that extra up-down. The body starts to go into recovery mode, especially when you haven’t done that extra up-down yet.

“For me, the most difficult part of the spring training process is the build-up. I feel like once you get to that 85-pitch count mark, my body seems to respond really well. But getting to that point can be tough. It’s one of those steps in the process that is kind of a grind. But got the pitch count to 55 today, so that’s a good sign.”

Roster reduction

Friday marked the first day of cuts in Cubs camp, with 22 players optioned to the minor leagues and pitcher Gray Fenter (a Rule 5 selection in December) sent back to the Baltimore Orioles.

Pitchers Cory Abbott, Tyson Miller and Kohl Stewart were optioned to Triple-A Iowa while pitcher Manny Rodríguez, catcher Miguel Amaya and infielder Christopher Morel were optioned to Double-A Tennessee.

Beyond that, 16 players were assigned to minor league camp:

C Taylor Gushue
C Tyler Payne
INF Abiatal Avelino
1B Alfonso Rivas
INF Chase Strumpf
INF Andy Weber
INF Patrick Wisdom
OF Brennen Davis
RHP Juan Gámez
RHP Jake Jewell
RHP Robert Stock
RHP Michael Rucker
RHP Tommy Nance
RHP James Bourque
LHP Brendon Little
LHP Jerry Vasto

These players will still see action in Cactus League games, but that leaves the Cubs with 50 players competing for the Opening Day roster.

With all the pitchers sent down, the bullpen picture becomes a bit more clear with two-and-a-half weeks left in spring training. The Cubs have 24 healthy pitchers vying for 13 or 14 spots on the Opening Day staff.

Injuries and other updates

—Catcher Austin Romine has missed the last few days with a right knee sprain and is officially considered day-to-day. Once the inflammation goes down, he will get back on the field, but Ross said Romine has been feeling better each day.

The Cubs signed the 32-year-old to be Willson Contreras’ backup and help lend a veteran presence in handling the pitching staff.

Romine still has plenty of time to get ready for the regular season but if this knee issue lingers, the Cubs are confident in the backstop depth they have behind him.

“José Lobatón has been around a long time and I have a ton of confidence in P.J. Higgins,” Ross said. “That’s real depth we have in our organization.”

Lobatón, 36, has nine years and more than 400 MLB games under his belt while the Cubs are high on Higgins’ potential.

—Outfielder Jake Marisnick has been slowed by a calf injury but he will play in the Cubs’ “B” game Saturday at Sloan Park. The plan from there is to give Marisnick Sunday off before he suits back up again Monday.

—Zach Davies is throwing the “B” game Saturday while Adbert Alzolay gets the ball for the Cubs’ Cactus League contest against the Royals.

—Cubs top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez has been slowed in camp by COVID protocols and he also had a baby right before spring training started.

“He came in a little bit late, probably a little behind schedule,” Ross said. “He’s on a throwing program. I don’t even think he’s gotten off the [mound] quite yet, so he’s well behind in a few areas.”

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