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Who should be in the Cubs’ Opening Day bullpen?

The answer isn’t as easy as you might think.

Javier Assad
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The following relief pitchers are still in Cubs camp. (Note: For purposes of this discussion, I am going to assume that Hayden Wesneski will be named to join the rotation, and other pitchers such as Adrian Sampson and Javier Assad will be among the relief choices.)

On the 40-man roster

Adbert Alzolay, Javier Assad, Brad Boxberger, Michael Fulmer, Brandon Hughes, Julian Merryweather, Michael Rucker, Adrian Sampson, Keegan Thompson, Rowan Wick

Non-roster invitees

Ryan Borucki, Nick Burdi, Tyler Duffey, Roenis Elias, Anthony Kay, Mark Leiter Jr., Brendon Little, Vinny Nittoli, Manuel Rodriguez, Cam Sanders

That’s a total of 20 pitchers. Only eight of them will be on the third-base line at Wrigley Field on Opening Day as the 2023 Cubs are introduced.

So, where do we go from here? I had expected we might hear of more roster cuts on Monday’s off day, but none were forthcoming.

The following pitchers on the 40-man roster have options remaining: Assad, Hughts, Rucker, Thompson and Wick.

We have been given hints recently that Thompson and Hughes might have some injury issues; either or both could start the year on the injured list.

Of the non-roster guys, the most impressive in camp have been Burdi, Merryweather, Sanders and Kay. Merryweather’s been touted by a number of writers and, given that the Cubs would likely lose him if he’s not on the Opening Day roster, he would seem to have a pretty good chance of making it, especially since he’s already on the 40-man roster and no one would have to be removed for him.

Leiter has an opt-out clause that would allow him to leave and find another organization if he’s not on the major-league roster by Opening Day, March 30. Leiter has pitched in four games, throwing four innings and allowing one run, with a walk and four strikeouts. But I don’t know if that’s enough for him to bump someone off the 40-man to make the Opening Day roster.

Based on all that, here’s my best guess as to who will be in that Opening Day bullpen:

Alzolay, Assad, Boxberger, Fulmer, Merryweather, Sampson, Wick and one of the non-roster guys, I can’t make up my mind which one. Nor do I see any obvious cuts from the 40-man, unless the team thinks they can run Miles Mastrobuoni through waivers and keep him, or perhaps let Zach McKinstry go.


Which non-roster reliever should make the Cubs’ Opening Day bullpen?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Ryan Borucki
    (9 votes)
  • 7%
    Nick Burdi
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Tyler Duffey
    (11 votes)
  • 16%
    Roenis Elias
    (60 votes)
  • 11%
    Anthony Kay
    (43 votes)
  • 29%
    Mark Leiter Jr.
    (109 votes)
  • 2%
    Brendon Little
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Vinny Nittoli
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    Manuel Rodriguez
    (24 votes)
  • 12%
    Cam Sanders
    (47 votes)
  • 7%
    None of the above
    (29 votes)
368 votes total Vote Now