MESA, Ariz. — Cubs backup catcher Austin Romine (sprained right knee), who signed a one-year deal this offseason, hasn’t played since March 6 and will be out a few more days before he can return to the lineup.
The Cubs don’t have a ton of depth behind Willson Contreras and Romine. The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is prospect Miguel Amaya, but it’s unlikely the team would add him to the major-league roster to be the backup and potentially hurt his development.
If Romine has to miss extended time, the Cubs have some internal catching options, including PJ Higgins, Jose Lobaton and Taylor Gushue. All three are non-roster invitees and would have to be put on the 40-man roster before being added to the 26-man roster.
“[Romine] just had some inflammation,” manager David Ross said. “Got him checked out, just a right knee sprain. They’re going through treatment, and [he’s] feeling better each day.
‘‘There’s really no timetable. We’re just trying to let it calm down a little bit, then move forward from there.”
Cubs make first spring roster cuts
The Cubs assigned 22 players to minor-league camp Friday, trimming the spring roster from 73 to 51 players. Right-handers Cory Abbott, Tyson Miller and Kohl Stewart have been optioned to Class AAA Iowa. Right-handed pitcher Manuel Rodriguez, infielder Christopher Morel and Amaya have been optioned to Class AA Tennessee.
Sixteen non-roster invitees also were assigned to minor-league camp: right-handers James Bourque, Juan Gamez, Jake Jewell, Tommy Nance, Michael Rucker and Robert Stock; left-handers Brendon Little and Jerry Vasto; catchers Tyler Payne and Gushue; infielders Abiatal Avelino, Alfonso Rivas, Chase Strumpf, Andy Weber and Patrick Wisdom and outfielder Brennen Davis.
Pros, cons to potential changes
Baseball has been looking for different ways to “improve” the game the last few seasons and has used various rules changes to make that happen. MLB announced several changes that would be implemented in the minor leagues this season, including larger bases, pickoff limits, defensive-shift restrictions and electronic strike zones.
While MLB is using the minors to experiment, some of the proposed changes already are getting attention in the big leagues.
“I loved manipulating the ball as a catcher and the framing aspect,” Ross said about having robo umpires, “the cat-and-mouse game and having relationships with umpires and talking about strikes and balls. That umpire dynamic was fun for me.
“I would say I’m in favor of that. I think it’s going to be something that just brings consistency to the at-bats and the pitchers. My fear is what the product is going to look like on TV behind the plate, as somebody that took a lot of pride in that. . . . What are pitchers gonna do to try to hit corners of that box? [That’s] the only kind of thing that’s on my radar that might be a little bit weird. But, no, I think it makes a lot of sense.”