Battle for final Opening Day spot heats up

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Last week’s roster cuts gave Cubs fans a better view of who will be on the Opening Day roster—a total of 11 players were sent to various minor league squads on Friday, and reliever Rafael Dolis was shipped to Triple-A Iowa later in the weekend—but there is still at least one spot up for grabs.

Zach Putnam, Hisanori Takahashi and Cory Wade all will be vying for the final spot in the bullpen, following the news that Michael Bowden and Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon were likely  in.

The 25-year-old Putnam signed with the Cubs this past Christmas after spending 2012 with Colorado. The right-hander has pitched nine innings this spring, posting a 3.00 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP and notching five strikeouts. In Triple-A last year, he racked up 12 saves in 49 games and posted a 4.15 ERA in 60.2 innings of work.

Takahashi is a 37-year-old veteran who spent most of his career playing in Japan before coming to the U.S. in 2010. The left-hander split time with the Angels and Pirates last year, posting a 5.54 ERA in 50.1 major league innings. With James Russell the only lefty locked into the bullpen, the Japanese native might have the inside track.

Wade comes over as an offseason signing as well, having spent the previous two seasons with the Yankees. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 6.46 ERA in 39 innings in 2012. That came after a 2011 campaign in which he had a 2.04 ERA in 39.2 innings. This spring, he has a 5.63 ERA in eight innings pitched.

Cubs.com’s Carrie Muskat reported that Steve Clevenger is likely going to beat out utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez for the final bench spot on the roster. Clevenger played 69 games for the Cubs in 2012, mostly at catcher. This spring, the organization has tried out the 26-year-old at first base. He’s hitting .395 in 41 plate appearances.

Clevenger will be batting third and playing first Monday as the Cubs host defending World Series champs San Francisco. Lefty Travis Wood will get the start for Chicago, opposite Ryan Vogelsong. The 3:05 CST game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet, or fans can listen in on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup the Cubs will send out Monday:

CF David DeJesus
SS Brent Lillbridge
1B Steve Clevenger
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Dioner Navarro
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Travis Wood

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