How Cubs are mapping out the returns of Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell


How Cubs are mapping out the returns of Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell

The Cubs are keeping an open mind and running through different scenarios with Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell, getting ready to drop their Cy Young Award winner and All-Star shortstop back into a pennant race.   

Arrieta tested his strained right hamstring on Thursday at Wrigley Field, throwing 25 pitches off a mound and anticipating a full bullpen session on Saturday as the next step.

The fluid plans revolve around how Arrieta – who experienced a Grade 1 strain on Labor Day – feels on a daily basis. But the Cubs have targeted next week at Miller Park and a stretch where they will play eight straight road games against the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.

“I feel really good,” Arrieta said at his locker after a 14-6 win over the New York Mets. “We’ve been cautious. But at the same time, we’ve been doing a lot of work each and every day, bouncing back really well. There’s been no carryover as far as soreness or tightness.

“Still want to be smart about it. But I feel like I’m pretty close to being able to take it back out there and help the guys out.”

Reincorporating Arrieta on Sept. 21 in Milwaukee would allow him to make two weighted starts against the two teams chasing the Cubs in the National League Central – and be available for Game 162 if that becomes a must-win situation against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.   

Arrieta – who is 6-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break – could be a game-changer in the division race if he is able to lock in his mechanics again and generate the same explosiveness off his right leg.

“It would be nice to get three more (starts),” Arrieta said. “There’s not going to be any effects as far as losing strength or endurance. It really hasn’t been that long. I was only out for about four or five days without playing catch, and that’s kind of standard. There are times where I don’t throw in between starts throughout the year, just to save some bullets and be strong the next time out.

“We’re in a really good spot. I feel like this actually could be a blessing in disguise, as far as getting a little time off and not having to rush this back. Because if this were to happen today, it would be a different story.”   

In terms of instant impact, there are lower expectations for Russell, who has been sidelined since early August with a strained right foot/plantar fasciitis and watched Javier Baez emerge as a dynamic big-league shortstop.

Manager Joe Maddon said Russell is “very, very close” to being activated. With expanded rosters – and without a minor-league rehab option – the Cubs could use Russell sooner rather than later and ease him back in as a pinch-hitting threat during this weekend’s showdown against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. 

As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus


As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus

With less than a week until Opening Day, the Cubs' roster is all but set.

Joe Maddon told reporters in Arizona Friday the Cubs will roll with eight relievers to open the season, which doesn't come as any surprise. 

Left-handed pitcher Randy Rosario was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, leaving Eddie Butler and Shae Simmons as the two most likely guys to take the final bullpen spot.

Butler, 27, is out of minor-league options, which means if the Cubs do not keep him on their big-league roster, they risk losing him on waivers. Simmons still has two options remaining.

Butler also represents more starting pitching depth for the team beyond their five-man rotation and Mike Montgomery. Theo Epstein's front office likes to enter a season with 8-10 starting pitching options in case of injury, so it'd be hard to see the team getting rid of their No. 7 guy on that depth chart.

This spring, Butler has pitched 10 innings over five games with a 4.50 ERA and five strikeouts. He made 11 starts and two bullpen appearances with the 2017 Cubs, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.

Simmons, 27, signed with the Cubs as a free agent Feb. 16 and pitched nine games with the Seattle Mariners last year. He's appeared in four games for the Cubs this spring, pitching to a 2.45 ERA with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

In carrying eight relievers, that only leaves one position player spot available (backup catcher). Outfielder Peter Bourjos is expected to start the season in the minor leagues.

Veteran backstop Chris Gimenez will probably get the nod on the big-league roster over youngster Victor Caratini.

Gimenez comes with experience and a knowledge and relationship with Yu Darvish and we do have confirmation Darvish is making the Opening Day roster:

The Cubs really like Caratini and he's arguably their top position player prospect, but at age 24, he needs to play every day and see regular at-bats, which he wouldn't get backing up Willson Contreras in Chicago.

With that, here's the projected Cubs' Opening Day roster:


Willson Contreras
Chris Gimenez


Anthony Rizzo
Kris Bryant
Addison Russell
Javy Baez
Tommy La Stella
Ben Zobrist


Ian Happ
Kyle Schwarber
Albert Almora Jr.
Jason Heyward

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood


Brandon Morrow (closer)
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Justin Wilson
Steve Cishek
Brian Duensing
Mike Montgomery
Eddie Butler

Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)


Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Atlanta Braves

2017 record: 72-90, 3rd place in NL East

Offseason additions: Preston Tucker, Charlie Culberson, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Peter Moylan, Chase Whitley, Grant Dayton, Chris Stewart, Anibal Sanchez

Offseason departures: Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, Jason Motte, Matt Adams

X-factor: Ozzie Albies

One of the youngest players in the league, Albies just turned 21 in January. He carries with him the pedigree of the game's No. 11 overall prospect entering last season and got his first taste of big-league life toward the end of 2017.

He hit well, posting a .286 average and .810 OPS while showing an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and providing some pop and speed.

Assuming he can avoid any sophomore slump and take another step forward, the Braves could actually surprise some people this year. But without Albies providing Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman some lineup support until a certain phenom gets to town, it's hard to see Atlanta contending.

Projected lineup

1. Ender Inciarte - CF
2. Ozzie Albies - 2B
3. Freddie Freeman - 1B
4. Tyler Flowers - C
5. Nick Markakis - RF
6. Preston Tucker - LF
7. Dansby Swanson - SS
8. Rio Ruiz - 3B

Projected rotation

1. Julio Teheran
2. Mike Foltynewicz
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Sean Newcomb
5. Scott Kazmir


The Braves are coming, you guys. 

Maybe not now, but they'll be here soon enough.

2018 will feature growing pains for a young group of up-and-comers including the aforementioned Albies, plus Tucker (a powerful outfielder acquired from the Astros), Swanson (the 2015 No. 1 overall pick who's since fallen on tough times) and Newcomb.

Oh and there's some guy named Ronald Acuna coming up next. You may have heard of him.

The 20-year-old phenom has absolutely torn the cover off the ball everywhere he's gone the last 14 or so months and we'll see the game's No. 1 overall prospect in the big leagues in mid-April, God willing.

Once Acuna does come, it adds another level to a lineup that frankly comes up a bit short right now, even with Freeman (one of the best hitters in baseball) and Inciarte (one of the game's most underrated players). 

The Braves have a solid bullpen, plenty of rotation depth and a decent bench. It wouldn't be shocking to see them challenge for the second wild card spot, but true contention will probably come in 2019 for this bunch.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West, no playoffs

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves