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Surprise move: Victor Caratini wins Cubs’ backup catcher job over Chris Gimenez




MESA, Ariz. — So much for Chris Gimenez’s relationship with Yu Darvish.


The Cubs said from the beginning that had nothing to do with the signing of Gimenez, the veteran backup catcher, to a minor-league free agent deal.

And on Saturday, they made it even more clear, choosing second-year Victor Caratini to be their backup catcher to start the season in the surprise decision of camp. Gimenez, the former personal catcher for the $126 million Darvish, opens the season at Class AAA Iowa.

“The biggest thing is we felt that Victor’s ready for this,” manager Joe Maddon said of the switch-hitting catcher who was pressed into a big-league debut last June when veteran Miguel Montero was released over critical comments about teammate Jake Arrieta.

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“But we also know that he may not get enough opportunity to play in the beginning,” Maddon added. “However, even possibly sitting there going through the prep every day and getting in some action on occasion, maybe pinch hitting once in a while, picking up some later innings, is that equally valuable for him to go back to Triple-A where he’s done a really good job in the past and you know he can do that? That was part of the argument.

“The other part of that is Gimmy’s the perfect backup. We just felt this was the right thing to do right now. And if it doesn’t play good for Victor early, getting enough ABs, it’s always something we can flip-flop at some point.”

Caratini always was the better offensive choice.

The decision all but sets the Cubs’ opening roster.

The only other decisions involve whether Pedro Strop, who has only made two appearances because of a calf injury earlier in camp, is ready to open on time and whether the Cubs decide a low-cost addition late in camp is worth risking the loss to waivers of final bullpen pitcher Eddie Butler.

All set?

The catching decision all but sets the roster. The only possible decisions left involve whether reliever Pedro Strop (made only third appearance Saturday because of an early calf injury) is ready to open on time and whether the Cubs decide a low-level waiver move in the next few days might strengthen the final bullpen spot.

Lester ready

Left-hander Jon Lester pitched three innings against minor-leaguers in a 57-pitch tuneup for the regular-season opener Thursday. ‘‘Today was just more trying not to die,’’ said Lester, who accomplished that.

On deck

Cubs at Royals, Surprise, Kyle Hendricks vs. Ian Kennedy, 2:05 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 9, 670-AM.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com