HOUSTON -- Thomas La Stella wasn't surprised at making the Cubs' Opening Day roster."I really wasn't paying much attention to it," La Stella said Thursday about being named to the 25-man roster along with outfielder Matthew Szczur. "That stuff is so far out of your control. It was defintely a
HOUSTON -- Thomas La Stella wasn't surprised at making the Cubs' Opening Day roster.
"I really wasn't paying much attention to it," La Stella said Thursday about being named to the 25-man roster along with outfielder Matthew Szczur. "That stuff is so far out of your control. It was defintely a relief to find out in the last couple days."
The Cubs had planned on carrying 13 pitchers, but instead placed lefty Brian Duensing on the 10-day disabled list to give him time to build up arm strength after missing time in camp because of back spasms. They'll start the season with 12 pitchers and carry both La Stella, who does have options left, and Szczur, who does not.
La Stella batted .270 in 13 Cactus League games, and provides a left-handed bat off the bench.
"As spring progressed, I got more comfortable at the plate, and simplified some stuff working with [hitting coach John Mallee] in the cage and doing what I do naturally," La Stella said. "It translated in the game."
• Kyle Schwarber had a giant-sized horseshoe in his locker. It was a gift from one of the Budweiser Clydesdales, who were in Mesa, Ariz., at a Cubs game last week. Apparently, Schwarber hit one of the horses on the backside during batting practice.
"I hope it brings me good luck," he said of the shoe.
Manager Joe Maddon and Schwarber have finalized their one-on-one message before the leadoff batter's at-bats. Last year, Maddon would say, "You go, we go," to William Fowler. What's his message to Schwarber?
"It's slightly X-rated, so I can't tell you," Maddon said. "It's not slightly X-rated, it's totally X-rated. I can't publicly expose."
What is said in the dugout, will stay in the dugout for now.
• The Cubs were careful with C.J. Edwards last year in terms of back-to-back appearances, and Maddon said the right-hander has shown he can handle more work this season.
"He can get anybody out," Maddon said of the right-hander. "He's got that kind of stuff. He's pitching with a lot of confidence. Watching [radar] gun readings, which is pertinent to me, when he went two days in a row, there was a little bit of a drop-off. I don't anticipate that this year."
• Hector Rondon is apparently still having some fastball command issues, but Maddon did see a better slider Monday.
"With these guys, let the bell ring, let them go pitch," Maddon said. "I really think you'll see all these relievers pitch better right now -- all the pitchers -- being at sea level. [Rondon is] healthy and there's nothing wrong with him. When he starts throwing the fastball where he wants, he's going to take off."
• The Cubs' two-game series in Houston was a homecoming for Minor League prospect Charcer Burks, who grew up here and has dreamed of playing someday at Minute Maid Park.
"I used to go to Astros games all the time, and we'd pass through the stadium, and every time I passed through, I'd say, 'I'm playing in that stadium one day,'" Burks said. "To be able to be back and playing here is awesome."
Now 22, Burks started to dream about playing in the Major Leagues when he was 6 years old, and recalled watching Michael Bourn and Carlos Beltran on the Astros.
A ninth-round pick in the 2013 Draft, Burks was able to take his mother to lunch Thursday, and expected about 60 family and friends at Minute Maid.
"What are the chances I get to play an exhibition game here?" he said, smiling.
• According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, April 2 will be the first time in 16,945 games that the Cubs will open a season as the defending World Series champions. The previous time was April 14, 1909, when they beat the Cardinals, 3-1, at the West Side grounds.
• Maddon met pregame with Steve Gleason, the former NFL player who was diagnosed six years ago with ALS, and the Cubs manager literally gave him the shirt off his back. Maddon presented Gleason his No. 70 jersey, and autographed it, and added "World Champs 2016," "Respect 90" and "Respect Team Gleason." Gleason played with the New Orleans Saints in the NFL.
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.