In their latest round of roster moves, the Cubs optioned Blake Parker to AAA Iowa and assigned SS Javier Baez, RHP Brian Schlitter, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, RHP Chang-Yong Lim, OF Casper Wells and IF Chris Valaika to minor league camp.
Baez, a non-roster invitee and not on the Cubs 40-man roster, will start the season playing short at AAA Iowa. The move was expected as the Cubs front office has said all spring he would start at the year in Iowa. He was the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2013 and has hit five homers this spring for the big league club. If you want to see Baez, you may want to head to Des Moines as he's unlikely to get called up until sometime in late July or early August.
Optioning Blake Parker to AAA makes the bullpen picture a little clearer and if they plan on going with 13 pitchers, nearly sets the pitching staff. Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel have been penciled into the starting rotation, and now it looks like both Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva will make the opening day roster and may both get a start. Jake Arrieta is expected to start the year of disabled list. James McDonald was taken out of his last start after two pitches and is unlikely to be ready for opening day.
Jose Veras has already been given the closer's job by manager Rick Renteria with Pedro Strop, James Russell and Hector Rondon the top retuning bullpen arms. With Parker going to AAA, it looks like Justin Grimm will make the roster along with Wesley Wright and Alberto Cabrera, who is out of options. If they decide to take 12 pitchers out of Mesa, Cabrera may be the odd man out. RHP Neil Ramirez (has an option left) and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (non-roster invitee) still remain in camp and have an outside shot. Kyuji Fujikawa, recovering from Tommy John surgery, will start year on DL.
Parker, 28, appeared in 49 games with the Cubs in 2013 after a early June call-up from Iowa. Featuring a fastball in the low 90s, Parker crafted an ERA of 2.72 in 46.1 innings for the Cubs and recorded his first pro save June 29 at Seattle. He earned his first pro win on Aug. 10 at St. Louis and finished the season with 55 K and a 1.17 WHIP.
Schlitter led all Cubs minor league relievers last year with 22 saves, 20 at AAA Iowa. The Cubs signed Lim in December of 2012 after the South Korean had Tommy John surgery, following a five-year career in Japan. He pitched in Mesa, Daytona, Tennessee and Iowa last year before a September call-up. Sanchez, Wells and Valaika, major league veterans, were inked to minor league deals in the off-season with a non-roster invite to spring camp.