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Levine: Even With Javier Baez Sidelined, Cubs Like Their Versatility

By Bruce Levine--

MESA, Ariz. (CBS) -- With infielder Tommy La Stella and reliever Neil Ramirez out of options, the Cubs found space on their 25-man roster for both players Tuesday. With infielder Javier Baez nursing a left thumb contusion, La Stella made the club's Opening Day roster and a backup infielder/pinch-hitter.

La Stella will be counted on there, as he's the lone reserve natural infielder with the Cubs choosing to go with 13 pitchers to open the season. Chicago also wanted to utilize caution with the 23-year-old Baez to ensure the injury doesn't plague him throughout the season, so they placed him on the 15-day disabled list. With the move being retroactive, Baez could still for the Cubs' home opener on April 11.

"We just wanted to make sure he was well," Maddon said of Baez. "This is the type of stuff, if you permit it to linger, it can. We don't want it to linger. We had him in the office and talked to him. He was kind of disappointed, because he feels he can be ready. He has not played in awhile and has not had enough at-bats. He needs at-bats, he needs to play. We are going to get him in the outfield. We are not comfortable it is 100 percent well. We will make sure it's 100 percent well and bring him back up."

View: Cubs' full Opening Day roster

After being on and off the DL in the last two years with arm and shoulder soreness, Ramirez fought back this spring by gaining arm strength throughout camp.

"Neil, based on his performance this spring, is really showing signs of reapproaching what he had done a couple of years ago," Maddon said. "I think the biggest thing for him was to stop pitching to the gun and just try to get hitters out. While he has been doing that this spring, his velocity has come back up. It is crazy how that happens sometimes. He has pitched really well and deserves to be there."

The fact that Baez was suppose to be a super-sub and play numerous outfield and infield spots is couched by the fact Ben Zobrist can play all over to start the season. With a fully healthy roster, Zobrist will be the everyday second baseman.

"We are still versatile," Maddon said. "Even without Javy, you saw Zobrist play shortstop. In a pinch, he is very good over there. If it is long term, you could do something differently to fill that spot. We don't expect Javy to be out much longer than maybe into Chicago, when we get back home. We will see how this all plays out. Everything is kind of in place right now."

A mini-platoon with Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler will be in place in left field. Schwarber will be the designated catcher for right-hander Jason Hammel as the season begins, and Zobrist is also functional as a corner outfield backup as well.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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