Olt, Kalish make the cut for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. - The Cubs finalized the position-player portion of their roster Thursday, and two things stand out: balance and versatility.

Third baseman Mike Olt and outfielder Ryan Kalish got the good news that they had made the team. Outfielder Chris Coghlan and infielder Ryan Roberts were the final two cuts, with Roberts requesting and being granted his release.

So what are the Cubs left with as they prepare for Monday's season opener at Pittsburgh? With their position players, they have six left-handed hitters, six right-handed hitters and one switch hitter in Emilio Bonifacio.

They also have several players who can play multiple positions.

It's not predicted to be a championship roster, but at least the team gives itself a chance every day with favorable matchups. The Cubs also have some flexibility late in games with left-right matchups for pinch hitting. And Bonifacio brings an element the Cubs have been lacking for some time: speed.

In the National League game, the more versatility you have, the better off you're likely to be.

"Really important," said general manager Jed Hoyer. "One of the things that Kalish brings to the table is the ability to play all three outfield positions and play really good defense for us. I think with Bonifacio, the same thing. He can play all over the place. He can run the bases. He's a switch hitter. Those are important aspects when you build a roster.

"I do feel like you want to be able to give the manager as many things to think about before and during the game, what things he can do. Having a limited bench is really difficult in the National League."

Olt came to camp with a lot of questions marks next to his name. The Cubs obtained him last July in the trade that sent pitcher Matt Garza to Texas. Vision problems wrecked Olt's season last year, and a sore shoulder limited his playing time at third base this spring.

But there was no stopping the bat as Olt has put up a Cactus League line of .273/.317/.582 with 5 home runs and 12 RBI.

"I worked hard this off-season coming from last year," he said. "It was a tough year. I think it made me a better player, a better person. Just a little bump in the road. I know what I'm capable of doing. I'm just happy I was able to come here and do my job.

"I was extremely excited. Just to get an opportunity like this is something that every kid dreams about. Now that it's really true, I haven't had time to really sit back and think about it, but it's something that I'll never forget."

Olt will share time at third with Luis Valbuena, but it probably won't be a straight platoon, especially if Olt keeps up the power display.

Manager Rick Renteria said the Cubs will "manage" Olt's usage.

Kalish made the team as a nonroster invitee. He missed all of last year in Boston's organization after undergoing right-shoulder surgery in January 2013.

"It's a really good day, but I have a sense of calm about it," said Kalish, who turns 26 Friday. "This means a ton with everything, my body, and all the work I've put in and the people who have helped me, my family, the rehab people. But there's a greater sense of something bigger going on than one day of being called up.

"I got choked up a little bit. It's been such a wild ride to even think I'd be starting Opening Day for the Cubs this year after being in a cervical fusion recovery room overnight is just pretty wild.

"This is a really awesome day for myself and everyone who has seen what I've gone through. My family is just ecstatic."

Kalish is a left-handed hitter, joining first baseman Anthony Rizzo, right fielder Nate Schierholtz, outfielder Ryan Sweeney, Valbuena and backup catcher John Baker as players who hit from the left side.

The right-handed hitters are Olt, catcher Welington Castillo, second baseman Darwin Barney, shortstop Starlin Castro and outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Junior Lake.

"We had some lineups that we'd run out there that were pretty right-handed and pretty vulnerable to a good right-handed slider, a good right-handed pitcher," Hoyer said. "I like the right-handed bats we have, too, but I think we'll able to mix and match a little bit depending on the starting pitcher."

The Cubs will use the Friday and Saturday games against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field to finalize their pitching staff.

Cubs' Baker gets big-league validation: roster spot

Cubs center fielder Ryan Kalish catches a flyball hit by San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt during the first inning of a spring game in Scottsdale, Ariz., earlier this month. Associated Press
Cubs first baseman Mike Olt signs autographs before a spring-training exhibition game against the Reds. Associated Press
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