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There don't seem to be too many open spots on the roster that will open the season in Pittsburgh April 1. Perhaps you disagree. Come within to see my choices.
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Cubs will begin the 2013 season in Pittsburgh 12 days from today.
12 days? Wow, it sure doesn't seem that close, does it? There are still 46 players on the spring roster, which means 21 of them will be told before April 1 that they'll begin the season in Des Moines, Kodak (Tennessee), Daytona, Geneva (Kane County), at extended spring training, or on the disabled list.
Here, then, is my best March 20 guess on which 25 players the Cubs will take north with them. This doesn't mean they might not find someone on the scrap heap between now and the end of the month -- particularly if a third baseman is suddenly dropped into their laps -- but I'm just going with players who are currently in camp.
PITCHERS (12): Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva, Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, James Russell, Shawn Camp, Michael Bowden, Hector Rondon, Hisanori Takahashi CATCHERS (2): Welington Castillo, Dioner Navarro INFIELDERS (6): Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, Brent Lillibridge, Steve Clevenger OUTFIELDERS (5): Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt
23 of these players are pretty much set in stone. The two "on the bubble" guys are Takahashi and Clevenger, so the last two roster spots would be a utility player and the last bullpen slot.
I assume if the Cubs find a third baseman on the waiver wire, Clevenger will become the starting catcher at Iowa. Clevenger has played some first base this spring and there was talk -- it hasn't been done yet -- that he might play some third base or even second base, to increase his versatility. If Clevenger can again hit like he did through his minor-league career (.309/.370/.424; he's hitting very close to that this spring in a small-sample-size 37 PA, .353/.378/.412) and play multiple positions, it would be great to have a third roster guy who can catch.
As for Takahashi, I'm further assuming the Cubs would like to have a second lefthander in the bullpen. Chris Rusin, who's looked good as a starter this spring, could also be in that mix, but given the Cubs' current starter-injury issues, they might be better off sending him to Iowa to keep stretched out as a starter. All of the other non-roster guys still in camp who might have a bullpen shot (Drew Carpenter, Casey Coleman, Jensen Lewis, Blake Parker, Zach Putnam and Cory Wade) are righthanded.
Scott Baker, Matt Garza and Ian Stewart will all start the year on the disabled list. It's possible that all three could wind up on the 60-day DL, which would open up three 40-man roster spots. They'll need to have at least two if they go with my proposed roster, because Takahashi and Lillibridge are currently non-rostered.
Think I'm right? Think I'm wrong? Leave your thoughts in the comments.