Caratini beats out Gimenez for backup catcher
Cubs go with prospect, knowing veteran will be ready at Triple-A
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs resolved the only real position-player roster decision that was pending this spring, picking Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher and sending veteran Chris Gimenez to Triple-A Iowa.
"We felt Victor was ready for this," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Saturday. "We also know he may not get enough opportunities to play in the beginning. Even possibly sitting there, going through the prep every day and getting in some action on occasion, maybe pinch-hitting once in a while, picking up some later innings, that's equally as valuable for him as it is for him to go back to Triple-A, where he's done a really good job in the past, and you know he can do that."
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Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey both know Gimenez, 35, well from their time together in Tampa Bay.
"'Gimmy' is the perfect backup, he's made for that job," Maddon said. "He is the backup quarterback. He knows how to sit there, and he knows how to come and play two games in October or November and get you through that month and then you have a winning record at the end of the season.
"We felt this was the right thing to do right now. We know if it doesn't play for Victor early and he doesn't get enough at-bats, we can flip-flop at some point."
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Caratini, 24, made his Major League debut last season and batted .254 in 31 games. He is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cubs' No. 8 prospect and the No. 10 catching prospect in all of baseball.
"Victor has demonstrated he's Major League ready," Maddon said. "'Gimmy' has demonstrated he's one of the better backup catchers in all of baseball."
Happ hits 7th spring homer
Ian Happ belted his seventh Cactus League home run on Saturday, sending the first pitch from Felix Hernandez over the left-field wall in the Cubs' 7-3 split-squad loss to the Mariners.
"It's been fun to watch Ian leading off all spring," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said on Saturday. "He wants to do it. Part of what makes guys good in that role is wanting to do it. Some guys, you put them in that spot and they don't like it and they don't want to do it. It's served him well."
Happ, who hit 24 home runs in 115 games last season, isn't a typical leadoff batter.
"Having a guy who's dangerous at the top of the lineup is not a fun way for a pitcher to start a game," Hoyer said. "There could be a guy at second pretty quickly and then you have to deal with the big guys we have coming behind. To me, I'd love having a guy who gets on base and speed, the traditional leadoff guy, but having power at the top of the lineup, there is an intimidation factor. No pitcher wants to be pitching out of the stretch four pitches in."
Front office has last laugh in prank war with La Stella
Thomas La Stella tipped his cap to the Cubs' front office for their efforts in putting together a video prank that aired during Friday's game at Sloan Park. Anthony Rizzo narrated the video, saying La Stella needed a life partner, and it ended nearly giving out the infielder's phone number right before hinting he was headed to Iowa, where the club's Triple-A affiliate is located. This spring, La Stella has been parking in spaces reserved for Hoyer and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
The video, which aired after La Stella lined into a double play to end the third inning, combines outtakes from a video promo La Stella did in 2015 along with Rizzo's narration.
"Tommy's a perfect candidate to be able to take something like that," Rizzo said. "All day I was telling him that I loved him and 'Tommy, I want you to know I love you and you're a good friend.' I'm buttering him up. He lined out and I'm on deck and I said, 'Hey, this is the reason I've been telling you this all day.'"
Said La Stella: "I should've known. [Rizzo] kept coming up to me the whole day, 'Hey, man, I love you.' I was like, 'I love you, too.' ... [After seeing the video] I was like, 'OK, man, give me a hug. You're wearing me out.' They got me good."
Before displaying his entire phone number, the video asked La Stella to nod if he was OK with a truce, and he did. His reaction when he saw the numbers?
"Panic," La Stella said.
Is it over?
"That was beautifully done," La Stella said. "It might truly be a touche moment for the time being. That was awesome. I'm glad they chose me."
On Sunday, Kyle Hendricks will close the Arizona portion of the Cubs' exhibition schedule, facing the Royals in Surprise. The Cubs have games Monday and Tuesday against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., before the regular season opener on Thursday against the Marlins in Miami. Sunday's game will be available live on MLB.TV and will be broadcast on WGN-TV and 670 The Score.