The good news for the Cubs is that they will be able to use the designated hitter in their season-opening series at Texas.
The bad news is that the DH is used only when they play in American League parks.
Cubs president Theo Epstein would give his eye teeth to have a universal DH in the major leagues, with the National League finally going the way of the AL.
That’s likely to happen in the near future, but not this year.
For now, that’s fine with manager Joe Maddon, who has expressed his desire to keep playing “National League ball,” with the pitcher batting (eighth or ninth in Maddon’s lineups) and double switches all around.
When the Cubs do have an opportunity to use the DH, it’s a way for them to use left fielder Kyle Schwarber in that role or get both Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist into the lineup.
But during regular NL play, Maddon will use all of his machinations, and on Maddon-managed teams almost everybody is a starter, and almost everybody is a bench player.
The Cubs did lose one key sub when Tommy La Stella was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in November. La Stella has made a nice career of being a pinch-hitting specialist, batting .312 in that role last season.
However, the Cubs believe that they gave themselves a little more defensive flexibility over La Stella when they signed veteran Daniel Descalso to a two-year contract. The 32-year-old Descalso had a line last year of .238/.353/.436 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He can play all the infield positions and left field, and he has extensive postseason experience, playing in two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
With shortstop Addison Russell suspended to start the season, second-year man David Bote will get reps in the infield.
Maddon has been judicious in his use of the 37-year-old Zobrist, who can start or come off the bench and play second base or the outfield.
Happ gives the Cubs athleticism and power potential. He will get some starts in center field, and he wants to be in the mix at second base, as well.
The Cubs don’t have a veteran backup catcher in the mold of David Ross, but they like Victor Caratini as their backup to Willson Contreras. Journeyman catcher Taylor Davis most likely will open the season at Triple-A Iowa and be a phone call away if the Cubs need help behind the plate.