Matt Szczur, Tommy La Stella both break with Cubs as roster set

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Tommy La Stella (in midair)

MESA, Ariz. — Outfielder Matt Szczur? Or infielder Tommy La Stella?

The Cubs made their final roster decision Wednesday by keeping both.

To make room, left-hander Brian Duensing, who missed two weeks earlier this month because of back spasms, will start the season on the disabled list, despite pitching Tuesday.

And with that, the Cubs set their Opening Day roster.

“I’m excited to be there with them when we get our rings and wear those gold jerseys,” said Szczur, who was out of options and the subject of trade rumors. “I was a little stressed, to be honest with you. But I just try to go out there and have fun and take care of what I can on the field. It usually takes care of itself.”

The decision means the Cubs open the season with a seven-man bullpen (12-man pitching staff).

Duensing will be eligible to rejoin the team April 9, the day before the home opener.

“We just felt like we’d be rushing him back,” president Theo Epstein said. “He’s only made three outings since coming back. We want him to have the benefit of a full spring, just to make sure he’s ready and then also to put him in a position to have a good season for six, seven months.”

Duensing, who pitched three scoreless outings, will open the season at Class AAA Iowa. He signed a one-year, $2 million deal over the winter.

“Just because a guy can come back and throw an inning or throw two innings doesn’t mean he’s fully recovered or had the benefit of a full spring training,” Epstein said. “So he’s still in essence rehabbing from the back spasms, and that process will continue at Iowa.”

Szczur was being looked at by some teams as a possible starter.

“He’s a good fit for us, as well,” Epstein said. “It just followed the usual pattern of spring training where players who are out of options and thought to possibly be available are looked at.

“We never got closer to anything, and we were looking all along to find a way to keep him on the club.

“Certainly, we start the year with a heck of a bench with both Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella on it, in addition to the rest of the crew.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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Opening Day roster:

Starting pitchers (5): LHP Jon Lester, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP John Lackey, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Kyle Hendricks.

Relievers (7): Closer Wade Davis, RHP Carl Edwards Jr., RHP Pedro Strop, RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Justin Grimm, RHP Koji Uehara, LHP Mike Montgomery.

Catchers (2): Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero.

Infielders (6): 1B Anthony Rizzo, 2B Ben Zobrist, 3B Kris Bryant, SS Addison Russell, UT Javy Baez, UT Tommy La Stella.

Outfielders (5): LF Kyle Schwarber, CF Albert Almora, RF Jason Heyward, OF Jon Jay, OF Matt Szczur.


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