We stand now just 12 days to Opening Day.
The Cubs seem likely, in my view, to go with 13 position players and 13 pitchers on their Opening Day roster.
Setting aside for the moment the five starting pitchers, who are the guys who will be in the bullpen underneath the Wrigley Field bleachers on April 1 when the Cubs face the Pirates?
Here are my thoughts.
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
After three horrendous outings this spring, Kimbrel has been much better in his last two: two innings, one hit, no runs, three strikeouts. He’s still sitting at about 95-96 on his fastball and it would help him tremendously if that velocity could go up a tick or two.
Righthanded setup: Brandon Workman, Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera
Workman, who had an outstanding 2019 season in Boston before posting pretty poor numbers in 2020, figures to be Kimbrel’s primary setup man. Workman has allowed three runs, all unearned, in five innings this spring with eight strikeouts. Winkler was an effective reliever for the Cubs in 2020 and so was Tepera.
Lefthanded setup: Andrew Chafin, Brad Wieck
So far this spring, Chafin has looked like the pitcher who posted solid relief seasons for the Diamondbacks in 2018 and 2019. He was slowed by a thumb injury last year. Wieck had a late start to camp and has made just two appearances (both scoreless). Wieck has options remaining if the Cubs choose to go with someone else. That “someone else” could be Rex Brothers, who’s made six appearances this spring without allowing a run and struck out seven and walked just one in six innings.
The rest: Dillon Maples, Pedro Strop
As I wrote in Saturday’s game recap, Strop was sitting comfortably at 94-95 miles per hour on his fastball, and if that’s the case he should be able to return to the effective pitcher he was pre-2019. He looked 100 percent healthy.
There are other relievers on the 40-man roster who do have options remaining: Jason Adam, for example. Trevor Megill, who’s a non-roster guy this spring, could be kept in the system and ride the Iowa Shuttle. Jonathan Holder has options, too, but seems to have received a bit less time on the mound this spring than some of the others.
Then there’s Shelby Miller, a non-roster invitee who appears to have a very good chance at making the Opening Day roster. And, the Cubs might decide to go with 14 pitchers and 12 position players, though the way David Ross is putting lineups together it appears to me that it will be 13 and 13.
What do you think?