The ballclub has some tough choices to make.
As of Monday, May 2, MLB teams must cut their rosters from 28 to 26. As announced earlier this week by MLB, teams can opt to carry 14 pitchers until May 30 if they choose to do so, rather than the 13-pitcher limit that was originally going to go into effect, per the new CBA.
The Cubs are off Monday, thus the first game they will play with the reduced roster will be Tuesday, May 3 against the White Sox at Wrigley Field.
At the present time, the Cubs are carrying 15 pitchers. They have, however, essentially been operating with a 14-man staff for the last eight days. Lefthander Daniel Norris hasn’t pitched since April 20, even though there have been situations where he might have been used. Norris has made four appearances this year, two decent, two not so much. It’s an open question as to whether the Cubs might just release him; he’s not making that much ($1.75 million) and the Cubs recently acquired lefty Sean Newcomb from the Braves, who could fill that same role.
Other than that, I would assume Ethan Roberts will be optioned to Triple-A Iowa next week. Roberts clearly has talent and has shown it at times (striking out the side 1-2-3 in Atlanta Tuesday), but at other times has been hit hard (a three-run inning in Atlanta Thursday). He might be better served getting more innings in at Iowa. Roberts and Michael Rucker both have options remaining and Rucker has pitched just once since April 19.
The Cubs could probably get along with 13 pitchers if they chose to do so, and if they do that, that would eliminate having to make a decision about the roster status of Alfonso Rivas.
Rivas has played very well in limited time and honestly, ought to be playing more often. If the Cubs choose to go with 13 pitchers after the roster cutdown deadline, all 13 of the position players currently on the roster would remain.
If they cut down to 12, personally, I’d simply cut Rafael Ortega. Ortega isn’t hitting well and isn’t really that good an outfielder and the Cubs already have a lefthanded-hitting outfielder who can do the same things Ortega can, only better — Jason Heyward, who is actually having a decent season. I hope they don’t cut down to 12, because with a DH in the game that leaves only three bench players, one of whom is the backup catcher.
It’s possible teams could make deals before Monday, maybe to clear 40-man roster spots. We will find out soon!
Now, here are some updates on the Cubs’ injured players, with my comments following.
The plan is for Wade Miley to throw again this weekend in Milwaukee before #Cubs plot next step in progression. He threw 46 pitches yesterday in a sim game, getting in three up-downs.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 28, 2022
COMMENT: I’d think Wade Miley is headed for a rehab assignment after he throws again this weekend, perhaps early next week. Presuming he needs only one rehab start, he could be back in the Cubs’ rotation by next weekend, when they host the Dodgers. With two off days next week, the Cubs could skip the fifth starter spot and end the Mark Leiter Jr. experiment. When Miley returns, Leiter probably heads out.
Alec Mills felt right quad tightness while working out yesterday. He won’t pitch this week.
Mills will have a couple days off & then #Cubs will plan next steps.
He could throw a bullpen before making another rehab start.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 27, 2022
COMMENT: Alec Mills is probably behind Miley in returning, perhaps not until the week of May 9. And then what? Does he go to long relief?
Some other notes on Cubs injured players are in this Tribune article by Meghan Montemurro, followed again by my comments on each. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay (right shoulder strain) is working out but not throwing yet. The team hopes Alzolay will begin the ramp-up process soon.
Part of the benefit of being on the 60-day IL is a pitcher coming off an injury like Alzolay’s has ample time to build arm and shoulder strength. Alzolay reported to spring training with the shoulder issue and got a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in early March. If the Cubs bring him back as a reliever, it would shorten the length of his rehab.
COMMENT: I have long thought that Alzolay would have more success out of the pen. Instead of throwing 100 pitches every fifth day, throwing one inning 3-4 times a week might better suit him. Once healthy, perhaps he could be groomed to be a closer.
Infielder David Bote, who is coming back from left shoulder surgery, likely will begin a rehab assignment in mid- to late May if he continues to trend in the right direction. That would put Bote on track to be activated as soon as he is eligible.
There isn’t an obvious spot on the big-league roster for Bote based on the current roster construction. While injuries could change that by the time Bote is full go, he does have a minor-league option the Cubs could use.
This is correct about Bote not really having a place on the current roster. The Cubs might very well use that option.
Left-hander Steven Brault is on the Triple-A IL after an MRI during his physical in March showed a triceps issue. He is going through a strengthening program for his arm with a return possibly 2½ months away.
COMMENT: Two and a half months… let’s see… checking calendar… that would put Brault on track to maybe be ready after the All-Star break.
I’m going to say right now that we never see him in a MLB Cubs uniform.
Unless maybe it’s to sing the national anthem:
Outfielder Clint Frazier, who went on the IL on April 20 after an appendectomy, is expected to go on a rehab assignment once he has fully healed. An appendectomy typically takes four weeks to come back from for hitters.
Frazier likely would have been optioned to Iowa when big-league rosters reduce from 28 to 26 players Monday. He was one of six outfielders on the Cubs active roster before going on the IL. A rehab stint would give him a chance to get in a rhythm at the plate after starting five of the Cubs’ first 12 games.
COMMENT: Frazier had a great Spring Training and looked like he had a role as a DH/part-time outfielder. This is a real setback for him and he’s not likely going to be ready until the end of May. By then, who knows?
Right-hander Manuel Rodríguez (right elbow strain) received a PRP shot with the hope of avoiding surgery. The Cubs will know more about Rodríguez’s outlook after he begins a throwing program in a couple of weeks.
COMMENT: I would expect Rodriguez to be optioned to Iowa once he completes this throwing program and has a rehab assignment. You might see him with the MLB Cubs in September. Maybe.
Left-hander Brad Wieck (left elbow strain) had a PRP injection in late March and is further behind Alzolay. He isn’t expected to return until the second half of the season.
COMMENT: Remember Wieck? His various health issues, including a heart problem, have set back a guy who appeared ready to break through and be a key bullpen contributor. Maybe we’ll see him in the second half, but he turns 31 in October and is arb-eligible in 2023, so he’s a non-tender candidate at the end of this season.
So the Cubs do have some guys who could help them later this year, and I do mean “later” as in “not earlier than a month from now.” That’s where they all stand as of a day or two ago.