3/14 Extra bases
The Cubs optioned right-handed pitcher Dallas Beeler to Triple-A Iowa on Friday and assigned right-hander Marcus Hatley to the Minor League camp. The moves reduced the spring roster to 54 players. On Wednesday, the Cubs optioned infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Logan Watkins and outfielder Matt Szczur to Iowa, and optioned outfielder Jorge Soler to Double-A Tennessee. Five other non-roster invitees have been assigned to Minor League camp besides Hatley. They include right-handed pitcher Carlos Pimentel, left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch, infielders Kris Bryant and Jeudy Valdez, and outfielder Albert Almora.
The Cubs’ spring roster consists of 27 pitchers (seven non-roster invitees), five catchers (three non-roster invitees), 11 infielders (four non-roster invitees) and 11 outfielders (five non-roster invitees).
* Jason Hammel has been spending too much time in the Minor League camp.
“[Anthony] Rizzo just came up and said, ‘Are you afraid to pitch in big league games?'” Hammel said, laughing.
That’s because Hammel has made just one Cactus League start, but has pitched in a “B” game and went six innings Thursday against Cubs Minor Leaguers to stay on schedule. The right-hander is used to prepping on the back fields.
“My first year with the [Orioles], because Florida Spring Training is all [American League] East, I didn’t pitch in a big league game until we’d been through two or three rounds of cuts,” Hammel said. “As long as I can get my work in and make sure I’m building the arm strength, I’m OK.”
On Thursday, he gave up eight hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four over six innings, throwing 75 pitches.
“I’m way ahead of schedule, going from three to six [innings],” Hammel said. “Everything felt good, I felt strong. I didn’t feel fatigued at all and I got my work in.”
The Minor League players were aggressive.
“For three innings, they were swinging at everything,” Hammel said. “I made the adjustment so it gave me the opportunity to start throwing breaking balls early in counts and I was able to throw a lot of stuff.”
Hammel’s next outing, by the way, will be Tuesday, and the only downside about that is he’ll have to make the long drive to Surprise to face the Rangers in a night game.
* The Cubs’ Mike Olt will play first base again on Saturday, but soon he’ll switch to the other side of the infield. Olt has been limited to first base and designated hitter duties to avoid aggravating his right shoulder, which has been tender. It’s not bothering his hitting. On Wednesday, he belted two home runs and hit a RBI single against the Mariners.
“He got brushed back pretty good, up and in, and then they threw him down and in, mid belt, and then he ended up stroking another knock,” Renteria said of Olt, who apparently is seeing the ball just fine and over the vision problems he had in the past.
“All things being equal, I think he’s coming along and showing everybody he’s back on track and who he was in the past,” Renteria said of Olt, who was a highly touted prospect with the Rangers, and whom the Cubs acquired last July in the Matt Garza deal.
* Jake Arrieta threw a side session on Wednesday, his third of the spring, and hoped to face hitters in a live batting practice outing his next time. Arrieta has been slowed because of tightness in his right shoulder. He’s been frustrated at being sidelined.
“The competitor in me wants to go [full tilt] but the more thought out side of me knows this is the right thing to do to be a little slower and make sure everything is where it needs to be,” Arrieta said. “You want to be functioning for a long season.”
— Carrie Muskat