Spring Training Notes - Bullpen and Health Updates


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.

Health updates

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:

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.


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  • There are a few bullpen options, but none of them awe-inspiring. I hope the Cubs aren't forced into a trade deadline deal to shore up the 'pen.

  • I believe it was the ring finger that Darvish got the blister on. I know it is a minor point. I am surprised it was that finger and not the index finger or middle finger.

    It looks like the Cubs will have to eat the $3.5M for Brian Duensing. He had another bad outing today. That was a bad signing. 2017 was a fluke year for him.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Still can’t believe we brought him back disappointed I was saying last year that good organizations no when to just admit their mistakes and move on. I thought it was a mistake signing him in the 1st place and I guess this is just another negative by product of the ricketts decision to take away funds from baseball operations. I hate to say it but I’m not that optimistic about this season this teams byllpen isn’t playoff caliber

  • In reply to kkhiavi:


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    Cut him and Kinzler bot offer that money on a one year to Kimbrel if Brewers get him game over and I never said that since 2016 . We most get him for a year or TWO.

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    In reply to Fred Barefield:

    Mirror is a better set up man and Stroup is awesome but can go the 7th inning Edwards and Cishek are very good but add Maple to learn and he is cheaper

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    In reply to Fred Barefield:


  • In reply to Fred Barefield:

    I'd love to have Kinbrel, but both Duensing and Kinzler have guaranteed contracts - cutting them wouldn't save a penny to spend on someone else.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    How did you figure out what Fred was saying?

  • While relief pitching is in turmoil, the hitting woes continue. Z just looks old-no pop;just reaching. Heyward looks no better and Happ just looks lost. All are under .200. Good news is that Caratini hit #2 today and threw out two base stealers. Can't win with only 5 hitters tho.

  • In reply to veteran:

    It is ST, so we all know those numbers do not stick on the back of a baseball card. However, I echo your concerns. The Offense killed this team in ‘18 and there was NOTHING done to improve except the talk track of “internal improvements” which I only feel good about Bryant improving. Some of the others are huge question marks.

    I will be watching this closely to play out. I always have given ownership and Theo/Jed the benefit of the doubt, but I was not pleased how the lack of movement either through trade or FA was our off season protocol. I believe it was a huge miss.

  • In reply to veteran:

    Bryant seem to be healthy, and ready to return to previous form. Contreras is doing well. Baez is doing well. Schwarber looks fantastic. And even Almora is looking good at the plate. The only two that seem to be having problems are Happ and Zobrist. I can live with that.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Heyward too...

  • My opinion is, cut Duensing and Kintzler, option Happ until he learns to make some contact and keep the hot hitting Zagunis in Chicago.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I agree. It's time to reward Almora by at least letting him get the bulk of the time in center early on while Happ goes down to figure things out. He was rushed up in the first place. Johnny Field has had a good spring, let him back up center. Or keep Zagunis and let Heyward back up center. Hell, KB has played center, Happ needs AAA.

  • I wonder how MLB handled the roster situations for that Japan series? It showed both teams with their full ST rosters listed. If you are part of a MLB roster even for one day doesn’t that guarentee you lifetime health care through the Players Union? Haven’t seen a word about it anywhere....

  • I believe they were allowed to carry 28 guys.

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