Cubs send nine out of Major League camp
Chatwood deals in split-squad nightcap; Baez nears return to action
MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon likes what he's seen of the young Cubs in spring camp, including the nine players assigned to Minor League camp Tuesday.
Right-handed pitchers Luke Farrell, Cory Mazzoni, Alec Mills and Jen-Ho Tseng, left-handed pitchers Dario Alvarez and Rob Zastryzny and infielder David Bote were optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Two non-roster invitees were assigned to Minor League camp: infielder Chesny Young and outfielder Jacob Hannemann.
• Spring Training information
"There are a lot of good under-the-radar guys here now," Maddon said Tuesday. "There's more there than you think. Check out Bote. ... He's been very impressive. Hannemann, I don't know if he's the best athlete in camp but if he's not, he's real close."
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Javier Baez was held out of the lineups of both of the Cubs' split-squad games Tuesday. Baez had to come out of last Thursday's game because of tightness in his left hamstring. He underwent an MRI and could return to action later this week.
"We're getting close -- he's getting close," Maddon said. "I don't think it'll be much longer. He's doing well, the [athletic] trainers are happy, he's happy. We're being overly cautious right now."
Could Baez return by the end of the week?
"I think that's possible," Maddon said. "If not, it's obviously the beginning of next week. Maybe by the end of this weekend, you might see him."
Willson Contreras, who had been ill, returned to the Cubs lineup Tuesday and hit a two-run homer in a 7-5 loss to the Padres.
"To have that much time off and be that on, not everybody can do that," Maddon said.
Reliever Pedro Strop, who has been slowed because of a tender left calf, has yet to appear in a game. He's also been feeling ill.
In his first spring start Tuesday, lefty Mike Montgomery gave up two runs on five hits over 3 2/3 innings, striking out three against the Padres in a split-squad game.
Making his fourth spring start, Tyler Chatwood struck out nine and gave up one hit over five innings in the Cubs' 2-1 split-squad win Tuesday night over the Giants. The right-hander came into the game with three K's in six innings. Ian Happ smacked his second leadoff homer this spring, off the Giants' Madison Bumgarner, and his fifth in Cactus League play, and Addison Russell added a leadoff shot in the fourth.
Between starts, Chatwood had talked about wanting to clean up some things. Everything worked Tuesday night.
"Obviously, I was incorporating more cutters, curveballs and changeups tonight," he said. "I think throughout the year, I need to keep reminding myself about that because it gets everything back to where it needs to be."
• Catcher Victor Caratini survived getting hit by a pitch by Bumgarner in the fourth and a collision at home plate with Austin Jackson in the Giants' fifth. Caratini stayed in the game to finish the fifth and help Chatwood record his ninth strikeout, and then came out of the game. He has a sore left knee and was listed as day to day.
• The game was played in front of a Cactus League and Sloan Park record crowd of 15,849, topping the previous high of 15,523 set at the Cubs' home park on March 20, 2016.
The only real decision this spring is regarding who will back up Contreras. Chris Gimenez caught Jonathan Lester on Friday, and on Sunday, the catcher was behind the plate for Yu Darvish. Gimenez, who is a non-roster invitee in camp, played for Maddon on the Rays in 2012 and '13.
But Maddon likes Caratini, who made his debut last year.
"If he was on another team that lacked catching depth, that's all you'd be hearing about is Victor Caratini now," Maddon said. "We just happen to have a pretty good starting catcher. This guy is really good, he's not just OK. He's a Major League catcher right now given the opportunity."
The Cubs travel to Surprise on Wednesday to face the Royals. Alec Mills will get the start. The right-hander made three starts at Triple-A Iowa last season but was bothered by injuries. He did pitch in the Arizona Fall League, making six starts. Jon Lester, the Cubs' Opening Day starter, will stay on schedule by facing the Triple-A Reno team in Scottsdale at 1 p.m. MT.