Cubs hire Blanco; Martinez doubtful

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs hired former catcher Henry Blanco as their Quality Assurance Coach, replacing Jose Castro who bolted for the Atlanta Braves earlier this offseason, the team announced Saturday.

Blanco’s return means there’s one less potential job opening for former Cub Dave Martinez. Martinez was eliminated for consideration for the managerial position in Tampa Bay on Friday and a source close to the situation said it was doubtful he would join the Cubs as Joe Maddon’s bench coach, the same position he held with the Rays.

The Cubs have been in a tricky spot with their coaching staff since hiring Maddon to replace Rick Renteria at the end of October. At the time, they had already hired two new hitting coaches as well as a new first base coach and said all others on the staff were returning, including bench coach Brandon Hyde. Traditionally, a manager gets to choose at least a few people to join his coaching staff, but with the timing of Maddon’s hiring, he’s not going to be able to overhaul things. Recently, he indicated he was fine with that.

“They’ve done the heavy lifting,” Maddon said. “Now I get to jump in.”

Blanco, 43, played for the Cubs from 2005-2008 and was part of two division winning teams in ’07 and ’08. Most recently, he was part of the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff.

He could turn into a key hiring as his personality will lend itself to the Cubs' young players. Additionally, he’s bi-lingual, which was a major concern last offseason as the Cubs wanted coaches who could speak to and relate with their young core of Latin-American players. Renteria was able to do that, but with his firing, the Cubs could have been lacking that piece to the coaching puzzle. Blanco will also undoubtedly help Welington Castillo as he’s the incumbent starter behind the plate after the team missed on free agent Russell Martin. Castillo is still growing in both the offensive and defensive parts of his game.

Cubs add exhibition games: The Cubs will take on the Oakland Athletics on March 13 and 14 in Las Vegas, the team announced Friday. Traditionally, the Cubs have played in Las Vegas every March with a split squad staying behind for Cactus League games in Arizona. Game times for the contests against the Athletics will be announced at a later date.