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Cubs' roster rounding into form halfway through spring

March 14, 2017

Editor's note: Before Spring Training began, MLB.com predicted teams' 25-man rosters. The Cubs have reached the halfway point in Cactus League play, so where does the roster stand now? Let's take a look.MESA, Ariz. -- When the defending World Series champion Cubs reported for Spring Training, there weren't any major

Editor's note: Before Spring Training began, MLB.com predicted teams' 25-man rosters. The Cubs have reached the halfway point in Cactus League play, so where does the roster stand now? Let's take a look.
MESA, Ariz. -- When the defending World Series champion Cubs reported for Spring Training, there weren't any major roster decisions for manager Joe Maddon to make other than who will lead off and which relievers will comprise the bullpen. Who will make the final 25-man roster? Here's an update:
Catchers:Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero
If Contreras isn't catching in a game, he's usually sitting next to coach Mike Borzello learning about pitch selection. He will be paired with Jonathan Lester and get the majority of starts. Montero, 33, is throwing well, and the plan is to have him start at least one, if not two, games a week. Said Maddon: "You've got Miggy being in good shape and rested combined with Contreras, that's pretty good [for a catching combination]."
First base:Anthony Rizzo
The only setback for Rizzo was when he missed four games because of tightness in his lower back. This spring, the Cubs have had a chance to look at who might back up Rizzo if he was injured. Jeimer Candelario has played well, although he's even better at third base.
Second base:Javier Baez, Benjamin Zobrist
Baez has been busy with Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and his absence has provided an opportunity for Ian Happ, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2015, to get lots of at-bats. Happ is taking advantage of it. He was batting over .400 and leading the Cubs in home runs and RBIs. Zobrist also will get plenty of playing time at second.
Third base:Kristopher Bryant
Bryant has been working on hitting the ball more to right, and on Sunday, crushed a home run to the opposite field during a game against the Athletics. If he can do that, Bryant will be even more difficult to pitch to.

Shortstop:Addison Russell
The only change here is where Russell may bat in the order. He was clutch with runners on base last year, and could hit fifth this season.
Utility:Matthew Szczur, Thomas La Stella
The Cubs know Szczur and La Stella, but also are keeping an eye on outfielder John Andreoli, who batted .316 with three home runs and seven RBIs for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Again, the final spot will come down to whether the Cubs want to carry an extra infielder like La Stella or an outfielder.
Outfield:Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Jonathan Jay, Jason Heyward
Schwarber has had no problems with the brace on his left knee, hitting two triples this spring. Almora has caught everything hit his way. Heyward ended an 0-for-15 start to Spring Training with two hits on March 6, and hasn't gotten a hit since. Maddon says he's not concerned about Heyward as he continues to adjust his swing.
Starting pitching: Jon Lester, Jacob Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Brett Anderson
No changes here, although Anderson appears to be emerging as the leader for the fifth spot. He may be a perfect fit because he's a ground-ball pitcher and can rely on the solid defense.
Bullpen:Wade Davis, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Koji Uehara, Caleb Smith, Mike Montgomery
Smith had a rough inning, then was able to right himself in his next inning. A Rule 5 Draft pick, the Cubs have to decide if he's ready to make the jump to the big leagues. Rondon is going to pitch for Team Venezuela in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, which is a good sign that he's healthy. He battled a strained right triceps at the end of last season.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.