While Tyler Chatwood has done enough to secure his roster spot this spring, especially in light of his large contract, the same can't be said for Brian Duensing. His 2018 struggles have carried over and I believe his roster spot is in serious doubt, despite the fact that the lefty signed to give him the most direct competition (Xavier Cedeno) has been unable to pitch due to a wrist injury.
His career has nose-dived the past two seasons, but the signature split-finger pitch for 32-year old Junichi Tazawa has reportedly been dialed in this spring, and in recent outings he has shown a slight bump in velocity on his fastball (although it is still below average). He's been one of the most effective NRI arms in camp and is making a strong case for job in Iowa, and possibly even in Chicago, even if I am not ready to take that leap with him myself.
What makes it a potentiality though, is the scenario where Duensing is released and the Cubs decide to role with just Mike Montgomery from the left side. Because of his splitter, Tazawa has traditionally pitched better against left-handed batters than righties, so the Cubs could see him as a potential short-term replacement until Cedeno is ready.
With Pedro Strop (hamstring) and Tony Barnette (shoulder) in doubt for season opener, it is possible Tazawa could sneak on to the roster anyway. Allen Webster would likely gain priority if there appears to be a long-term opening, but if the Cubs feel like they just need an experienced arm to fill in for a couple of weeks, and not have worry about losing on waivers once the regulars return they may choose to go with Tazawa as Webster is out of options and would very likely be snatched up by another team if the Cubs tried to sneak him through to Iowa later in the year.
Daniel Descalso (shoulder) is taking swings this week. If he responds well, expect him to get a bunch of ABs in Minor League games over the weekend and early next week in order to get him ready for Opening Day. If Descalso isn't quite ready for Opening Day, but is expected to back in short order, I believe Mark Zagunis would get the call up given he is already on the 40-man roster to replace him. If Descalso suffers a setback that would put him on the shelf for a bit, the Cubs could look to Christian Adames to provide additional infield depth, but they would need to make room on the 40-man roster.
After playing catch on Wednesday to test the blister on his index finger, Yu Darvish is scheduled for a bullpen on Friday, and then potentially for a backfield game appearance on Sunday that would keep him on track for his start in Texas once the regular season begins.
Speaking of an important bullpen session, Brandon Morrow threw 25 pitches
Around the NL Central
The Brewers interest in free agent Craig Kimbrel makes more sense in light of the news that one of their stud relievers, Corey Knebel (elbow), is injured and early word on his status for the season is grim.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Cardinals and their fans have to quite pleased by the news that the team and offseason trade acquisition Paul Goldschmidt agreed to a five-year contract extension according to Ken Rosenthal:
#STLCards close on an extension with 1B Paul Goldschmidt, sources tell The Athletic. Deal will be for at least five years and at least $110M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 21, 2019
Previously scheduled to become a free agent at year's end, Goldschmidt will now remain under contract with the Cards until he is 37 years old.
There is some connectivity to a potential Anthony Rizzo extension as the Cubs star will be set to enter free agency at the same age, but with two more team option years beyond this year, and a new CBA to be negotiated before we reach that point the math could end up playing out very differently between now and then.