Before Spring Training began, MLB.com predicted teams' 25-man rosters, followed by an update halfway through Spring Training. Now that the Cubs have finalized their Opening Day roster, let's review.MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon did not have any major roster decisions to make when the defending World Series champion Cubs
Before Spring Training began, MLB.com predicted teams' 25-man rosters, followed by an update halfway through Spring Training. Now that the Cubs have finalized their Opening Day roster, let's review.
MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon did not have any major roster decisions to make when the defending World Series champion Cubs reported for Spring Training in mid-February. Most of his focus was on emphasizing the importance of playing defense, determing who would lead off, and which relievers will compose the bullpen. Who made the final 25-man roster? Here you go:
Catchers:Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero
Contreras got rave reviews from Jonathan Lester all spring, and, as Lester says, the only way for the young catcher to learn the job is to keep playing. Contreras also hit six home runs, tied for fifth most in the Cactus League. Lester joked that it was nice to finally get an offensive catcher, a playful dig at veteran David Ross. Montero, 33, had a solid spring, too, and was matched up with Kyle Hendricks for nearly all of his starts. Hendricks and Montero may become the next Lester and Ross.
First base:Anthony Rizzo
Nothing has changed here except Rizzo has to deal with more interview requests and was asked to film more commercials. Expect a new "Bryzzo" campaign with his teammate, Kristopher Bryant. Rizzo's home run swing looked like it was in midseason form on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park, when he crushed a solo shot 383 feet to right.
Second base:Javier Baez and Benjamin Zobrist
Maddon was a little concerned that Baez may be mentally drained after playing for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and he told the young infielder to ask for time off if he needs it. Zobrist missed more than one week because of a stiff neck. No one seemed concerned about either. When Zobrist and Baez sat, top prospect Ian Happ got to play, and he finished with a Cactus League-leading 20 RBIs and ranked third in total bases and fourth in hits. Happ will open at Triple-A Iowa.
Third base: Bryant
The other half of the "Bryzzo" campaign, Bryant showed that his offseason work paid off. He wants to hit the ball to right more, something he did in the Minor Leagues in 2014, when he hit 43 home runs.
Russell missed one week with a stiff back and returned to the lineup on Thursday. He made a dazzling defensive stop on the grass and hit a two-run homer, so he's apparently feeling pretty good. If Russell does need a breather, Baez can shift to shortstop.
Utility:Matthew Szczur and Thomas La Stella
The Cubs decided to open with 12 pitchers and were able to keep both Szczur and La Stella. Szczur provides a right-handed bat off the bench, while La Stella gives them a left-handed bat. One other deciding factor: Szczur is out of options.
Outfield:Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Jonathan Jay and Jason Heyward
Almora went on a surge in the final days in Cactus League play, collecting hits in eight of his last 15 at-bats, including two doubles and three home runs. He batted .339 with 16 RBIs overall. Schwarber has had no problems with the brace on his left knee, hitting two triples this spring. Heyward batted .157 (8-for-51) in 20 games, with 11 strikeouts and six walks. Maddon is encouraged by the walks; that type of patience usually leads to hits.
Starting pitching: Jon Lester, Jacob Arrieta, John Lackey, Brett Anderson and Hendricks
Not many teams can have the Major League ERA leader in the fifth spot in their rotation, but the Cubs have the luxury of inserting Hendricks there. The Cubs wanted to avoid having the two lefties, Anderson and Lester, go back to back against teams. Anderson complimented the way the Cubs handled Spring Training, and posted on Twitter: "By far the best spring training I've been a part of ... here's to the regular season coming in hot."
Bullpen:Wade Davis, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Koji Uehara and Mike Montgomery
Caleb Smith, a Rule 5 Draft pick, was returned to the Yankees after appearing in five games this spring. The Cubs also will open the season with lefty Brian Duensing on the 10-day disabled list because of back spasms, which allowed them to keep an extra position player. Grimm did not give up an earned run over 6 1/3 innings in seven games. Rondon is still trying to get a feel for his slider.
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.