Cubs’ Opening Day roster from A(lmora) to Z(obrist)

SHARE Cubs’ Opening Day roster from A(lmora) to Z(obrist)

Albert Almora Jr., left, and Ben Zobrist celebrate after a victory.

MESA, Ariz. — All you need to know about the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, from Almora to Zobrist:

CF Albert Almora Jr.: It’s the opportunity of his career for more playing time after platoon partner Ian Happ was optioned to Class AAA Iowa.

SS Javy Baez: Understated spring makes it easy to forget last year’s MVP runner-up was the most exciting player in the National League. He says he’ll be better.

IF David Bote: Backup spent the spring looking like he’s ready for another shot at the Nationals with the bases loaded in the ninth.

RHP Brad Brach: Biggest free agent added is nearing full strength after a winter bout with mono.

3B Kris Bryant: The 2016 MVP looks healthy after a shoulder injury that sapped his power in 2018. Will he be the impact bat the team didn’t add?

C Victor Caratini: Survives after the front office searched all spring for more catching depth.

RHP Tyler Chatwood: Even after an encouraging spring, the Cubs can’t trust the former starter’s command for much more than mop-up work after a cringe-worthy 2018.

RHP Steve Cishek: Last year’s bullpen savior is even more important for a thin-looking bullpen. How will he bounce back from career highs in games and innings?

C Willson Contreras: After an All-Star selection and a second-half slump, Contreras is on a mission to refine his entire game — from a new receiving technique to a timing mechanism at the plate and a vow to contain his emotions.

RHP Yu Darvish: The smiles, one-liners and swagger have Darvish looking nothing like the guy who started poorly before finishing hurt last year. Well, that and a 97-mph fastball and an even better slider.

IF Daniel Descalso: The lone free agent added to the bench just returned from a sore shoulder and looks ready to show off the left-handed swing he reinvented in recent years. He should start at second base a lot in April.

RHP Carl Edwards Jr.: If the hesitation move he added to his delivery continues to feed the command he showed this spring, he could become the key for the bullpen.


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LHP Cole Hamels: Is he the aging lefty who struggled with the Rangers before last summer’s trade or the longtime ace who seemed regenerated after joining the Cubs?

RHP Kyle Hendricks: With the security of an extension, the 2016 ERA champ looks for more success, in part through improving his curveball.

RF Jason Heyward: Happ’s demotion means a heavier dose of center field for the Gold Glove outfielder. Whether he improves at the plate, he remains an important voice in the clubhouse.

RHP Brandon Kintzler: After trying to please within a new system following last summer’s trade, the former All-Star reliever plans to return to less thinking and more sinker.

LHP Jon Lester: Doubt his spin rate or point at his FIP? The veteran points at last year’s All-Star scoreboard, then takes ball on Opening Day again.

LHP Mike Montgomery: The swingman who saved 2018 with a career-high 19 starts opens this year as the bullpen’s most trusted lefty.

LHP Jose Quintana: The fifth starter expects to pitch more like the All-Star he was in 2016, and renewed command of — and faith in — his changeup could make the difference.

1B Anthony Rizzo: If he avoids another slow start, it could answer a lot of the questions the lineup takes into the season.

LHP Randy Rosario: He earned the final bullpen job after Brian Duensing was designated for assignment.

LF Kyle Schwarber: Tell him he can’t get better than his .356 OBP and 26 homers. “Then get out of his way,” manager Joe Maddon says.

RHP Pedro Strop: The de facto closer in April returned from a strained hamstring with a vengeance Monday, striking out Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts in a 1-2-3 inning against the Red Sox.

OF Mark Zagunis: He got healthy, tweaked his swing, had a big spring and earned the final bench spot with Happ’s demotion.

UT Ben Zobrist: Though slowing on defense, the versatile veteran remains one of the most dangerous hitters on the roster.

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