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Cubs begin finalizing Opening Day roster; only backup-catcher spot remains

Infielder Matt Duffy and reliever Dillon Maples were two of the surprise additions to the Cubs’ 26-man roster.

Cubs president Jed Hoyer and manager David Ross watch a spring training practice session.
Cubs president Jed Hoyer and manager David Ross watch a spring training practice session.
John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Cubs head back to Chicago on Monday night, and with the season a few days away, the team began finalizing its Opening Day roster.

On Sunday, the Cubs selected the contracts of infielders Eric Sogard and Matt Duffy as they rounded out their bench. Duffy beat out infielder Ildemaro Vargas, who was designated for assignment.

“Everybody’s had a really good spring, and I think we’re covered in shortstop depth already,” manager David Ross said of the decision to keep Duffy. “Just looking at the numbers Duffy has put up when he’s healthy, and the quality of the at-bat every single time he gets in the box, and the versatility that he has. They both have a lot of versatility. But I just thought it’s a little more contact on-base, quality at-bat.

‘‘I would say a little more power from Vargas when he’s right, and in the role that they’re going to be in, I think it’s going to be the quality at-bat and on-base that kind of swayed that decision.”

With Jake Marisnick as the fourth outfielder, the last bench spot belongs to whoever is the backup catcher. Austin Romine appears unlikely to break camp with the team because of a right knee sprain. PJ Higgins would be the other internal candidate, with options outside the organization also a possibility.

The Cubs made their final additions to the bullpen with left-hander Rex Brothers and right-hander Dillon Maples making the team. Brothers and Maples have had strong camps, and the Cubs feel like the adjustments they’ve made can stick long term.

The two relievers made the Opening Day roster last season, but after they struggled in their limited opportunities, both were sent down to the alternate site.

“Last year when I sent [Rex] down, we had a really good conversation in his hotel room that made me better as a manager, I would say, about how to talk to players,” Ross said. “I got a special place for Rex and what he’s helped me do, and to watch that journey and then watch him come in here and pitch the way he has, I feel like he’s really helped us this year.”

The Cubs will break camp with a nine-man bullpen, with Maples, Brothers, Alec Mills, Brandon Workman, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, Jason Adam and Dan Winkler.

“We’ve got a bullpen that matches up really well with a lot of different looks down there,” Ross said. “And we’ve got a legit closer — a guy that’s put up some career numbers that could rival anybody.”

Right-hander Rowan Wick will not break camp with the club as he continues to build strength after an intercostal injury cost him significant time this spring. While Wick won’t be on the Opening Day roster, he threw a 25-pitch bullpen session this week and is on pace to begin facing hitters at the alternate site soon.

Here’s what the Cubs’ roster will look like on Opening Day:

Starting Rotation (5)

Kyle Hendricks

Jake Arrieta

Zach Davies

Trevor Williams

Adbert Alzolay

Bullpen (9)

Rex Brothers

Dillon Maples

Alec Mills

Dan Winkler

Jason Adam

Ryan Tepera

Andrew Chafin

Brandon Workman

Craig Kimbrel

Catchers (2)

Willson Contreras

TBD*

Infielders (6)

David Bote

Matt Duffy

Anthony Rizzo

Kris Bryant

Javy Baez

Eric Sogard

Outfielders (4)

Joc Pederson

Ian Happ

Jason Heyward

Jake Marisnick