MESA, Ariz. – One of the biggest roster decisions in camp as this month’s Cactus League schedule plays out will be whether the Cubs decide to keep an eighth relief pitcher or a fifth bench player.
Last week’s additions of new starting outfielder Dexter Fowler and potential impact backup Shane Victorino would seem to all but settle the issue, but manager Joe Maddon says not so fast.
“Not really. Does it affect it? It could,” Maddon said. “We have a lot of versatility. We have different thoughts in regards to how to get this done without tipping a hand, and letting it play itself out.”
For now, the bench consists of catcher David Ross, left fielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber or corner outfielder Jorge Soler (whichever isn’t starting that day), top-glove Javy Baez and probably infielder Tommy La Stella.
Seven relievers figure to be locked in, including back-end right-handers Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm. Assuming none of the next four make the rotation, the rest of the pen likely would be filled with long men/spot starters Travis Wood (left), Trevor Cahill (right), Clayton Richard (left) and Adam Warren (right).
“It’s a depth issue. We have depth everywhere,” Maddon said. “It’s so unusual.”
The exhibition season opens Thursday with Travis Wood starting against the Brewers.