Cubs' roster crunch begins to ease (UPDATED)
MESA, Ariz. _ Cubs manager Rick Renteria was talking up three backup-catcher possibilities this morning at Cubs Park. And then there were two. The looming Cubs roster crunch eased a bit today as the Cubs released backup catcher George Kottaras and saw utility infielder Donnie Murphy claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers.
The Cubs also announced that John Baker had won the backup catcher's job over Eli Whiteside, who will be assigned to Class AAA Iowa.
“Those are two guys that have a tremendous amount of experience, are known for being very good receivers, blocking," said manager Rick Renteria.
Baker is a left-handed hitter while starting catcher Welington Castillo bats right-handed. Renteria talked of the "well-roundedness" of Baker's game in him getting the big-league job over Whiteside and Kottaras.
We’ll look at it all in our “take” for tomorrow’s paper and online later today. But for now, the Cubs have 32 players left in spring-training camp, including Whiteside and injured players who won’t make the team, such as Jake Arrieta and Kyuji Fujikawa.
More important, their 40-man roster is officially down to 38. That will free up space for nonroster men to make the club this weekend heading into Monday’s regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.
Baker is a nonroster man at this point, and the Cubs officially won't add him until Sunday. Infielder Emilio Bonifacio, who brings speed and versatility, figures to get a spot.
The news of the day also seems to bode well for third baseman Mike Olt, who starts today against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale. If any more moves are made, Ryan Kalish could snag a backup-outfield spot.
More to come. Follow on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.