Get ready for long games, messy box scores and plenty of pitching changes.
It's that time of year again, as MLB rosters expand Sept. 1, allowing teams to add as many as 15 extra guys to the big-league roster.
In the Cubs' case, the expanded roster gives manager Joe Maddon a plethora of different options, namely out of the bullpen.
The Cubs will have some some moving and shaking coming on their 40-man roster ahead of Saturday's big day, but here's an idea of what the roster could look like in the heat of the pennant race in the season's final month:
The sick bay
Most of the Cubs' roster reinforcements will come in the form of regular players returning from injury. The team's current disabled list is very long and that's not even including Yu Darvish, who is out for the season.
Kris Bryant (shoulder) began his rehab assignment Monday in Iowa, serving as the designated hitter. He's mere days away from returning to the big-league club, possibly making an appearance even before Sept. 1.
Tyler Chatwood (hip) made a rehab start in Iowa Monday night, too, but walked five batters and it would be shocking to see him called back up before Saturday. Even when he does return, his role on the team is murky at best as control issues have plagued him from the get-go.
Brandon Morrow (biceps) played catch Sunday and there is still no timetable for his return. At some point in September, he figures to slot back in at the tail end of the Cubs bullpen — it's just that nobody knows exactly when that will be.
Addison Russell (hand) is still resting and hasn't resumed baseball activities. He won't get a chance to go on a rehab assignment as the minor-league season ends this week and the Cubs shortstop definitely won't be back up with the club this weekend.
Mike Montgomery (shoulder) is slated to come off the disabled list this week and penciled in to start Thursday in Atlanta. He should be fine physically as the Cubs have given him an extended break from the rotation in an effort to monitor his innings.
Brian Duensing (shoulder) just gave up 3 runs and recorded only two outs Sunday with Iowa as he rehabs his own shoulder issue. The 35-year-old southpaw carries a 7.34 and 1.84 WHIP in 43 appearances in the big leagues this year, so unless he's able to right the ship soon, he probably won't play a huge role down the stretch.
Drew Smyly (elbow) is recovering from Tommy John surgery and has yet to pitch in a game at any level this season. He threw some live batting practice to Bryant over the weekend, but the chances of seeing Smyly on the mound in a Cubs uniform this season becomes less and less likely by the day.
The sure things
Anthony Bass was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa a couple weeks ago after returning from a thoracic strain and he figures to slot right back in as a low-leverage bullpen arm with the Cubs, where he sports a 2.93 ERA and 1.37 WHIP during his time in Chicago.
Terrance Gore is not on the Cubs' 40-man roster (which is full at 40 at the moment), so somebody will have to be bumped in favor of this speedster. Maddon has said he wants speed to supplement his bench and Gore is the best — and one of the only — pinch-running specialist in the game today.
Chris Gimenez has the same issue as Gore — he fulfills a position Maddon and the Cubs want to augment at the big-league level yet the player is not the 40-man roster. Gimenez spent time up in Chicago earlier this summer and will bring another backstop option to Maddon's disposal, allowing him to utilize Victor Caratini more as a pinch-hitter if he so chooses.
The Cubs may opt to designate pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, but that only takes care of either Gore or Gimenez, not both. Any other cuts from the roster would be more difficult decisions.
Rob Zastryzny already has a spot on the 40-man roster and will serve as another left-handed option or potential long man out of the Cubs bullpen.
Dillon Maples is the dynamic 26-year-old right-hander who can touch 100 mph with his fastball and make hitters look foolish with his slider. He has a 1.59 WHIP and walks are a major issue — he's doled out 30 free passes in only 38.1 minor-league innings — but he also would bring swing-and-miss stuff (17.4 K/9) to a Cubs bullpen that could use a jolt like that.
Luke Farrell has already accounted for 31.1 innings in the majors, making 18 relief appearances and a pair of spot starts. He's a surefire choice to add more depth in the bullpen.
Cory Mazzoni has also tasted life in the bigs, sporting a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings across 8 appearances earlier this season.
Pitcher James Norwood, 24, began the year in Double-A before blasting his way to Chicago for four appearances this summer. He figures to be back as well.
Duane Underwood Jr. is still only 24 and should get to experience life in the majors more. He had a nice spot start for the Cubs in Los Angeles this summer, but probably won't be in the Chicago rotation in September unless somebody else gets hurt.
Outfielder Mark Zagunis is the only other player on the 40-man roster. He has posted a .771 OPS in 110 games in the minors, but probably won't see much playing time.
Chris Coghlan headlines a group of others who aren't on the 40-man roster, including Mike Freeman (shortstop depth), Taylor Davis (catching depth), Dakota Mekkes (bullpen depth), Ryan Court (infield depth) and Jacob Hanneman (speed).
If the Cubs give any one of these guys a shot in the bigs, it would mean releasing or designated another player from the 40-man roster to create room.
With that said and done, here's what the Cubs' September roster may look like 7-10 days into the month: (With this, we're taking some liberties and assuming both Addison Russell and Brandon Morrow will be healthy.)
Alec Mills (will slide to the bullpen if he is bumped from rotation)
Carl Edwards Jr.
Jorge De La Rosa
Duane Underwood Jr.
(Note: That is one hell of a deep bullpen with 18 options at Maddon's disposal, and that's not even including Justin Hancock, who is on the 60-day DL.)
Tommy La Stella
Albert Almora Jr.
Gore, in particular, will be a fun watch, as he will get some opportunities to pinch-run, play the outfield as a defensive replacement later and maybe make a start here or there. The Cubs don't have a ton of speed currently, so Gore will bring a different dynamic to this team.
This roster expansion couldn't come at a better time for the Cubs, who are in the midst of a stretch of 23 straight games without an off-day.