Cactus League report: Tim Anderson reflects on ‘cool’ WBC experience — and would the Cubs open with no lefties in the bullpen?

With opening day only six days away, the Cubs and White Sox have some important roster decisions to make before the end of Cactus League games.

The final rosters aren’t due until the morning of opening day Thursday, so teams can bring extra players with them as they break camp and wait to finalize their decisions. Injuries obviously will factor into the moves, and Cubs left-hander Brandon Hughes’ left knee soreness could determine how the bullpen looks.

In a roster move Thursday, the Sox optioned right-hander Davis Martin to Triple-A Charlotte. Forty-one players remain in camp: 20 pitchers, three catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.

Starter Michael Kopech allowed five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and four walks in three-plus innings for the Sox in a 6-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Camelback Ranch.

“My timing was just not there, and I was trying to find it almost the whole outing,” said Kopech, who pitched while being under the weather.

This is the last Cactus League report of the season — see you on opening day!

Tim Anderson reflects on ‘cool’ WBC experience

Anderson walked leading off the pivotal eighth inning for Team USA in a World Baseball Classic quarterfinal against Venezuela on Saturday in Miami.

He was on third base when Trea Turner hit the go-ahead grand slam to lift the Americans to a 9-7 victory.

“That Venezuela game was definitely blow for blow,” Anderson said Thursday. “That’s the way baseball needs to be played. The fans were into it, every pitch, every inning. It was definitely high energy, and you saw how the guys played — they played with excitement and kind of the way I’ve been playing.”

Reflecting on the WBC, the Sox shortstop said: “The atmosphere was crazy, the energy was crazy, definitely a cool experience.”

Team USA finished as the runners-up, falling 3-2 to Japan in the title game Tuesday.

Anderson slashed .333/.381/.500 with a double, triple, five RBIs and three runs in six games. Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout called Anderson “a star” after an outstanding pool-play game against Canada.

“Had some good at-bats and played some good defense, so I definitely enjoyed myself to be among the guys at the top of the list in baseball,” Anderson said.

Anderson played five games at second base.

“It was cool, but don’t get no ideas,” Anderson said with a laugh. “Right now our main focus is getting back over at short, see where that leads me in the next few years.”

Would the Cubs open the season with no left-handers in the bullpen?

That’s a possibility, with Hughes dealing with some knee inflammation since at least the start of camp. Hughes posted a 6.75 ERA over four outings.

Manager David Ross said Thursday that they’re being careful with Hughes to avoid putting him on the injured list. He’s the only left-hander who was virtually assured a spot in the pen.

“He’s a really important piece to us, but we’re going to do what’s right by him for the season,” Ross said, adding they wouldn’t risk injury just to put him on the opening-day roster.

“We have righties in camp that can get lefties out at a high rate,” Ross said. “We have options, and have some good lefties that are in camp as well.”

The most impressive has been Mark Leiter (1.80 ERA), who is not on the 40-man roster. The Cubs passed on adding some veteran left-handed relievers in the offseason, and while some might be available, it wouldn’t help now if Hughes went on the IL.

The Cubs on Thursday traded minor-league infielder Esteban Quiroz to Philadelphia for cash considerations.

Why Thursday was the ‘most important day’ of the spring for the Sox

Manager Pedro Grifol referred to Thursday as “the most important day of the spring,” describing the workout before the game against the Giants. The focus was on team fundamentals.

“We have our whole unit together again (after the World Baseball Classic) and we have only two days left of team defense and stuff we can cover together,” Grifol said.

The Sox extended the time for fundamentals. Grifol said the team usually gets off the practice fields at 11:40 a.m., but Thursday it was noon. They stressed running the bases, had coaches stationed at positions and worked on throws from the outfielders.

Anderson, Lance Lynn and Kendall Graveman were back from playing for the U.S. and Yoán Moncada from Team Cuba in the WBC.

“I wanted those guys to go enjoy themselves and play really good baseball in a hostile environment (in the WBC), and they did,” Grifol said. “I’m happy to have these guys back.”

Mash-free spring from Matt Mervis

Mervis’ first major-league camp proved to be a struggle for the left-handed slugger, who was one of nine players reassigned to minor-league camp.

Mervis, the team’s No. 7 prospect in MLB Pipeline rankings, hit .179 in 28 at-bats with no home runs and only one RBI. He also played for Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Also reassigned were pitchers Cam Sanders, Manuel Rodriguez, Brendon Little and Nick Burdi, outfielder Ben DeLuzio, catcher Don Nunez and infielders Sergio Alcantara and David Bote.

Outfielder Nelson Velasquez was also optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

It’s been tough sledding for Bote, who earns $4 million in 2023 and $5 million in ‘24 after signing a five-year, $15 million deal in 2019. The team has a club option for 2025 ($7 million) and 2026 ($7.6 million).

Barring a turnaround, the Cubs likely would be forced to eat a good portion of that deal.

Up next

  • White Sox at Athletics, 3:05 p.m.

  • Rangers at Cubs, 3:05 p.m.; Cubs at Guardians, 8:05 p.m.

What we’re reading this morning


”I always know what the ultimate goal is here. I never forgot about here. At the end of the day, I’m going to go out and do my job and play hard and see where it leads us.” — Anderson on ramping up for the season