Cubs

Why Maddon, Cubs opted to keep three catchers after Miguel Montero's return

Why Maddon, Cubs opted to keep three catchers after Miguel Montero's return

Joe Maddon loves bucking convention.

Whether it's forgoing batting practice or hitting the pitcher eighth, the Cubs manager doesn't play anything "by the book." 

So does it surprise anybody that he wanted to keep three catchers with Miguel Montero's return from the disabled list?

Instead of sending backup catcher Tim Federowicz back down to the minors, the Cubs sent outfielder Ryan Kalish out by designating him for assignment

The Cubs were already one bench spot short because of the decision to carry 13 pitchers, so another catcher on the roster essentially reduces the bench players to Javy Baez and Tommy La Stella (as of Saturday's starting lineup) plus that extra catcher.

Maddon likes the flexibility three catchers provides him, no matter how unconventional it may be.

"It gives us more freedom to do things in the latter part of the game," Maddon said. "You've seen us pull catchers early for different maneuvers and then, when you're going with just one guy into extra innings, it's never comfortable.

"But 'Fed' has kinda forced our hand to do this because he's played so well and he's looked so good. So that's how we chose to do it. It can change, obviously. But for right now, we thought it was the right thing to do."

Maddon has essentially had three catchers on the roster for most of his tenure as Cubs manager.

The Cubs broke camp last season with Welington Castillo joining Montero and David Ross on the 25-man roster before Castillo was traded May 19.

After Montero returned from a thumb injury last August, the Cubs moved Kyle Schwarber to the outfield, though still had him get some time behind the plate.

This season, the Cubs' plan was to roll with Schwarber, Montero and Ross (with Schwarber obviously playing a bunch in left field) before Schwarber's season-ending knee injury in the third game of the season.

Ross got the start Friday against Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano and figures to be behind the dish again Sunday with Jon Lester pitching. 

Montero got the call Saturday against Pittsburgh southpaw Jeff Locke.

The Cubs could also get outfielder Matt Szczur (hamstring) back off the disabled list early in the coming week. 

Maddon said Szczur has been doing really well, working in the weight room. The young outfielder also took batting practice before Friday's game and the Cubs are encouraged with his progress.

When Szczur returns, Federowicz figures to be the odd man out on the 25-man roster, but who knows? Maybe that's just simply too conventional for Maddon's Cubs.

Mark Cuban is glad he couldn't buy an MLB team, says 'baseball is a mess'

Mark Cuban is glad he couldn't buy an MLB team, says 'baseball is a mess'

Mark Cuban is one of the more well-known and outspoken owners in sports. He lived up to that reputation with a shot at Major League Baseball on Tuesday.

Cuban tweeted out a link to an interview with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred talking about the Houston Astros' cheating scandal. Cuban took a shot, saying “baseball is a mess.”

Cuban tried multiple times to buy an MLB team. The Cubs were the first team he bid for in 2008, but Cuban has also made bids for the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Ricketts family bought the team in 2009 instead of Cuban.

The word was that Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks and has become a vocal part of the NBA, was denied because MLB didn’t want him as an owner. Seems like he is happy with that now.

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Tom Ricketts thinks Chicago Cubs 'have the best team in our division'

Tom Ricketts thinks Chicago Cubs 'have the best team in our division'

For the first time since 2015, expectations around the Cubs aren’t that high.

Sure, a significant core of the 2016 World Series-winning team is still around but, also for the first time since 2015, the Cubs are coming off a season in which they did not make the playoffs. Plus, the offseason hasn’t inspired much confidence that the team will improve from its 84 wins in 2019.

Despite that, owner Tom Ricketts talked the talk about his team being the best in the NL Central.

“I think we have the best team in our division,” Ricketts said during a press conference from spring training on Monday. “I think we have a really dynamic, exciting new manager. I think the players are going to play very, very hard for David Ross. Barring some kind of crazy injuries, I think we should win our division and get back in the playoffs.”

RELATED: Javy Baez on 2019 Cubs: 'We weren't ready' to play

The Cubs’ offseason lacked a notable addition on paper. Here, Ricketts is alluding to Ross being that notable addition. If things got stale under Joe Maddon, perhaps that was a reason for underachievement. Expecting Ross to be the biggest reason for a turnaround is a lot to put on a rookie manager with no coaching experience, but it would be weird if Ricketts didn’t hype up his own guy.

Recently signed Jason Kipnis agrees that the Cubs have the best roster in the division on paper. Kipnis told a story about texting Anthony Rizzo about it when he talked to the media from Mesa on Sunday.

“They got a good core here. I’m well-aware of that. They’re well-aware of that, too,” Kipnis said. “I texted him and called him, and asked him what happened last year because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’”

Early projections don’t agree with Ricketts and Kipnis. The Cubs are not favored in the division as projected by USA Today, which put the Cubs at 82 wins, and PECOTA, which has the Cubs averaging 84.5 wins.

Still, Ricketts believes in his group to get to the playoffs.

“Once you’re in the playoffs, there’s no reason to think you won’t go all the way,” Ricketts said. “I think one of the things that people realize about baseball playoffs is it doesn’t matter what your record was during the season. Everyone has a chance to go all the way. So that’s what we have to do. We have to get back on top of our division and I think we have the right guys to do that.”

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