MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs made a series of roster moves on Tuesday, including the announcement that infielder/outfielder Javier Baez will start the season on the disabled list with a left thumb contusion. Also, manager Joe Maddon said reliever Neil Ramirez has made the team as has outfielder Matt Szczur.
“If you permit it to linger it can,” Maddon said of Baez’ thumb injury. “I just talked to (Baez). He’s kind of disappointed because he feels he can be ready, but he hasn’t played in a while. He needs at-bats.”
Baez jammed his thumb sliding into first base two weeks ago. His stint on the disabled list is likely to be retroactive to March 25, making him eligible to return next weekend in the middle of the Cubs' series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“We’re not comfortable it’s 100 percent well,” Maddon said.
Meanwhile, Ramirez made the team after showing some signs he might be returning to form after an injury-plagued 2015. He gave up seven hits, a walk and struck out four in five Cactus League innings this year as shoulder problems have hurt his velocity but he’s starting to find himself again. He compiled a 1.44 ERA in 2014.
“Neil, based on his performance this spring he really is showing signs of re-approaching what he had done a couple years ago,” Maddon said. “The biggest thing with him is to stop pitching to the gun and just try and get hitters out.”
Also told he made the team is outfielder Szczur. Szczur is out of minor league options, but the Cubs bought some time considering Baez is out at least until Week 2. The moves mean the Cubs will employ 13 pitchers and 12 position players to start the season, but with Baez out and Szczur in they’re down an infielder.
“We’re still versatile even without Javy there,” Maddon said. “You saw (Ben) Zobrist play shortstop yesterday. In a pinch he’s able to do that.”
Tommy La Stella was also told he made the team and will be the lone back-up infielder to start the season. He can play second and third base. Szczur becomes the fifth outfielder -- at least for the opening week. Here’s the entire 25-man roster barring any new injuries:
The Cubs also re-signed three players they released earlier in the day as Munenori Kawasaki, Manny Parra and Shane Victorino accepted minor league deals. The former two will start at Triple-A Iowa while Victorino rehabs a calf injury in Arizona. Maddon pointed out the need for more than 25 players to get through a season and indicated Kawasaki will be a factor on the big league team at some point this year.
“Kawasaki will be one of the most popular players in Chicago when he arrives,” Maddon said.