Matt Szczur, Tommy La Stella both break with Cubs as roster set

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MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs on Wednesday set their Opening Day roster, deciding to keep both outfielder Matt Szczur and infielder Tommy La Stella for their bench.

Left-hander Brian Duensing, who missed two weeks earlier this month because of back spasms, will start the season on the disabled list, despite pitching as recently Tuesday.

“He’s still a little bit behind everyone else because of the two-week setback so he’s going to start the year on the DL, head out on a rehab assignment to Iowa, to essentially finish off his spring training,” team president Theo Epstein said of Duensing, who signed a $2 million, one-year deal as a free agent during the winter. “We just felt like we’d be rushing him back. He’s only made three outings since coming back. We want him to have the benefit of a full spring, just to make sure he’s ready and then also to put him in a position to have a good season for six, seven months.”

That means the Cubs open the season with a seven-man bullpen (12-man pitching staff).

The DL move is retroactive to Wednesday, the maximum number of time allowed. With the shorter, 10-day minimum DL length this season, that would make Duensing eligible to rejoin the team April 9, the day before the home opener.

Duensing has pitched three scoreless outings since the missed time for the spasms, including two perfect innings Tuesday.

“Just because a guy can come back and throw an inning or throw two innings doesn’t mean he’s full recovered or had the benefit of a full spring training,” Epstein said. “So he’s still in essence rehabbing from the back spasms, and that process will continue at Iowa.”

Also Wednesday, non-roster catcher Carlos Corporan was told he’ll start the season in the minors, leaving the 25 in camp for the opening roster.

Szczur had been the subject of trade rumors for weeks as teams saw the out-of-options outfielder as a potential trade candidate – some teams looking at him as a possible starter.

Matt Szczur

“He’s a good fit for us as well,” Epstein said. “It just followed the usual pattern of spring training where players who are out of options and thought to possibly be available are looked at.

“We never got closer to anything, and we were looking all along to find a way to keep him on the club.

“Certainly, we start the year with a heck of a bench with both Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella on it, in addition to the rest of the crew.”

Opening Day roster:

Starting pitchers (5): LHP Jon Lester, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP John Lackey, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Kyle Hendricks.

Relievers (7): Closer Wade Davis, RHP Carl Edwards Jr., RHP Pedro Strop, RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Justin Grimm, RHP Koji Uehara, LHP Mike Montgomery.

Catchers (2): Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero.

Infielders (6): 1B Anthony Rizzo, 2B Ben Zobrist, 3B Kris Bryant, SS Addison Russell, UT Javy Baez, UT Tommy La Stella.

Outfielders (5): LF Kyle Schwarber, CF Albert Almora, RF Jason Heyward, OF Jon Jay, OF Matt Szczur.


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