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Descalso's injury keeps Cubs' bench in flux

Adames a candidate for Opening Day roster if Cubs must adjust
@MLBastian
March 15, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There might still be time for Daniel Descalso to be ready for Opening Day, but each day that passes without him swinging a bat diminishes that possibility. On Friday morning, Descalso had little to report in the way of a timetable for his return from his left

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There might still be time for Daniel Descalso to be ready for Opening Day, but each day that passes without him swinging a bat diminishes that possibility.

On Friday morning, Descalso had little to report in the way of a timetable for his return from his left shoulder injury, which flared when he landed awkwardly while chasing down a ball Saturday against the Angels. The veteran utility man must pass some range-of-motion and strength tests before being cleared to pick up a bat. In the meantime, the Cubs may need to start rethinking their Opening Day bench plans.

"There's different things you could do," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said prior to Friday's game against the White Sox. "We have not arrived at that yet. I mean, it's just kind of wide open. We'll just continue to look at it. When we get to that point -- like the last week or so -- we'll try to decide specifically what we need."

For the start of the season, Javier Báez will be manning shortstop while Addison Russell finishes out his 40-game suspension for violating MLB's Domestic Violence Policy. That puts Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ, David Bote and Descalso into the rotation for innings at second, with all four also offering depth for various infield and outfield spots.

With Descalso currently nicked up, however, that last bench job could be up for grabs.

One issue is that there are no other utility alternatives on the 40-man roster. Outfielder Mark Zagunis represents the only alternative on the roster. Among the non-roster candidates, the Cubs have a pair of prospects in Trent Giambrone and Zack Short, but teams rarely put young players in such a part-time role. Other options include Cristhian Adames, Phillip Evans and Ryan Court.

Maddon mentioned Adames, specifically, when asked about the options behind Descalso. The 27-year-old utility man has spent parts of four seasons in the Majors, can play all four infield spots and has produced impressive numbers (.429 average and 1.258 OPS through 16 Cactus League games) this spring.

"A guy like that could play a variety of different positions," Maddon said.

For now, the Cubs will hold out hope that Descalso continues to recover swiftly and be ready in time for the March 28 season opener at Texas.

"It feels better," Descalso said. "I don't think it's something to be too worried about yet. I really wish I could give you a timeline or a day, but I'm just not sure right now. The plan is taking it -- not to be cliche -- but one day at a time, just to see and make sure that it's feeling better."

Hamels aiming for innings

Cubs lefty Cole Hamels let out some shouts of frustration throughout his rocky start on Friday against the White Sox.

"I thought I kept it PG," Hamels quipped after his part in the Cubs' 11-9 win. "It's just execution."

Over 3 2/3 innings, Hamels labored to command his pitches, finishing with three walks and five hits allowed, including a three-run home run by Yoan Moncada. The veteran struck out four but was disappointed he was unable to reach the goal of five innings. Similarly, Hamels went 3 1/3 innings on Saturday against the Giants when four frames was the task.

Hamels has two starts left in Spring Training to iron out the kinks before the regular season arrives.

"I know what I've been working on all week," Hamels said. "And I wasn't able to execute a few of those pitches. So, I think that's where the frustration is -- knowing when you feel like you have a guy set up, but in order to be successful, you have to execute. So, that was kind of the tough part."

Worth noting

• Closer Brandon Morrow (right elbow) completed his final day of long toss on Friday, taking another step forward in his rehab from right elbow surgery. Barring any setbacks, the right-hander is planning to throw off the mound for the first time this spring on Monday's team off-day.

• According to pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, righty Pedro Strop (right hamstring) continues to play catch and is on the mend. For now, though, the planned day for Strop to resume throwing off a mound remains unclear.

• Maddon noted Friday that right-hander Tony Barnette, who has not pitched in a Cactus League game since March 3, is dealing with right shoulder soreness. There is no current time frame for Barnette's return.

• Opening Day starter Jon Lester is slated to throw a simulated game at the Cubs' complex on Monday.

• Righty Alec Mills (back tightness) threw off a mound on Friday, per Hottovy.

Up next

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Saturday, when the D-backs host Chicago in a 3:10 p.m. CT clash at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz. Hendricks has nine strikeouts against two walks in 7 1/3 innings (three starts) this spring. Arizona will give the start to righty Matt Koch.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.