Notes: Depth at catcher; roster moves

March 13th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs know what they have in All-Star catcher Willson Contreras. For the first time in a few springs, what Chicago may have to sort out is who backs up Contreras come Opening Day.

The Cubs are holding out hope that veteran -- signed to be Contreras' backup in the wake of the trade that shipped Victor Caratini to the Padres -- will still be ready in time for the season. Romine, however, is currently dealing with a right knee sprain with no established timetable for return.

"He's day to day," Cubs manager David Ross said on Friday morning. "He's feeling better each and every day. There's just really no timetable. We're just trying to let it calm down a little bit and move forward from there."

For the past few years, the Cubs had a Contreras and Caratini tandem that created strong depth if injuries became an issue. While Romine comes with plenty of MLB experience, Chicago's depth chart behind the plate appears thin at first glance.

Ross does not necessarily view it that way.

"There's real depth here, to me," the manager said.

Ross pointed to the experience of 36-year-old , who has nine years in the big leagues and is in camp with the Cubs as a non-roster invitee. The manager also pointed to versatile Minor Leaguer P.J. Higgins, who can also play multiple infield positions.

The Cubs also have highly-touted prospect Miguel Amaya, ranked No. 89 by MLB Pipeline and the Cubs' No. 3 overall, though he was optioned to Double-A Tennessee on Friday. Catcher Taylor Gushue (non-roster invitee) was also reassigned to Minor League camp, leaving Lobatón and Higgins as the only catchers in MLB camp behind Romine.

Higgins started behind the plate on Friday and caught Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, who allowed two runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 8-3 loss against the Brewers. Arrieta struck out two and walked three in the 55-pitch effort.

Worth noting
• Closer Craig Kimbrel was charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning in Friday's game against the Brewers. The veteran righty, who is sorting through some delivery issues, has given up nine runs on seven hits with two walks and one strikeout in 2 2/3 innings this spring.

• The Cubs have scheduled a "B" game against the D-backs for 11 a.m. CT on Saturday morning at Sloan Park. Chicago righty Zach Davies, who has logged five shutout innings with no hits allowed this spring, will make his next start in that game for Chicago.

• Center fielder Jake Marisnick (mild calf issue) is scheduled to take part in Saturday morning's "B" game. If Marisnick gets through the game with no lingering problems, he could make his Cactus League debut Monday, per Ross.

• Top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez remains behind the rest of the Cubs' arms after his delayed start to camp, but is working through a throwing program, according to Ross.

Roster moves
• Non-roster players reassigned to the Minors on Friday included: Abiatal Avelino, James Bourque, Brennen Davis, Juan Gámez, Gushue, Jake Jewell, Brandon Little, Tommy Nance, Tyler Payne, Alfonso Rivas, Michael Rucker, Robert Stock, Chase Strumpf, Jerry Vasto, Andy Weber and Patrick Wisdom.

• Cory Abbott, Tyson Miller and Kohl Stewart were optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Friday, while Manuel Rodríguez and Christopher Morel joined Amaya in being optioned to Double-A Tennessee.

• The Cubs returned right-hander Gray Fenter (selected in the Rule 5 Draft in December) to the Orioles on Friday. That brings Chicago's camp total to 50 players right now.

"He's in a special place. If I could wrap him up and ship him off to Chicago and keep him right there, I would." -- Ross, on Joc Pederson, whose two hits Friday gave him a .579 average and 1.474 slugging percentage through eight Cactus League games

Up next
Right-hander Adbert Alzolay is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Saturday, when the North Siders hit the road to take on the Royals at 2:05 p.m. CT in Surprise, Ariz. Alzolay is competing for a spot on Chicago's staff as a starter or multi-inning reliever.