Ramirez, Szczur make Cubs; Baez to start on DL

Ramirez, Szczur make Cubs; Baez to start on DL

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with Neil Ramirez, Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella on Tuesday to tell them that they made the Opening Day roster. Javier Baez will begin the season on the disabled list because of a sprained left thumb, and that move will be done retroactively so he could be ready by April 11.

Ramirez was out of options, but he had a solid spring and keeping the right-handed reliever will give the Cubs 13 pitchers to open the season.

"I think Neil, based on his performance this spring, is showing signs of approaching what he did a couple years ago," Maddon said of the right-hander, who was limited to 19 games last year because of injuries. "The biggest thing with him is to stop pitching to the [radar] gun and try to get hitters out. When he does that, the velocity comes back up. He's pitched well and deserves to be there."

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In his last two games, Ramirez didn't give up a hit or walk a batter.

"I feel the last three, four times I've been really locked in out there," Ramirez said. "My fastball command right now is awesome. The slider is still getting where it needs to be. I'm just happy where I'm at, mentally and physically. Being healthy is huge for me. It's fun to be out there and just competing again and not having to worry about anything. I'm where I need to be."

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Ramirez breezed through his outing on Monday against the Angels, retiring the three batters he faced.

"Joe reiterated, 'Pitch, man. Don't worry about the [velocity], don't worry about anything. You're pitching,'" Ramirez said. "It's not a 'velo' league, it's a 'Get guys out league.' I'm happy with the way things are going."

Baez had not played a game since March 20 because of a sprained left thumb. He did play catch on Monday, but Maddon said the team preferred to take a more cautious approach.

"I want to make sure he's well," Maddon said. "If you permit it to linger, it can. We don't want it to linger. He's kind of disappointed because he feels he can be ready. He hasn't played in a while, he has not had at-bats."

Baez was projected as a potential utility player, backing up in the infield as well as the outfield. Now, Ben Zobrist will be considered a backup at shortstop. Since the Cubs open the season with two games in an American League ballpark, they won't need to pinch-hit as much as they might in a National League game.

"I think the balance is pretty good -- it's actually very good with the short bench," Maddon said. "When we finally get Javy back, he adds more to that."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.