It’s almost here. Can you smell it yet? Opening day is so close. If you’ve read the blog for awhile, you know I hate spring training so the quicker we get the opening day the better for me. I have a tradition dating back to when I was in middle school to always stay home from school / work on opening day. As I’ve gotten a few years older I’ve realized that I can still work a little and take off half the day, so I’m anxiously awaiting Monday to come. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go home and watch the game on the couch and risk my kids running around screaming or go by myself to Buffalo Wild Wings. Both have advantages and disadvantages so I’ll have to weigh those before making a very important decision. In the meantime, let’s talk about the news.

Somehow it went unmentioned by the brother’s Johnson that Scott Baker was evaluated on Sunday by the team’s orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo. (Note to self: return christmas gifts for Jeremiah and Jedi and purchase two lumps of coal.) The evaluation of the MRI he had revealed no structural damage to the elbow for Baker, who is recovering from Tommy John. While it is a setback in the rehab process, it doesn’t push the time table back dramatically. While there hasn’t been an official estimate set, I’d expect his return to be sometime late June or early July. It’s not ideal, as the goal was to show he was healthy and showcase him, but if he can come back healthy he may be a value. Remember, Ryan Dempster was picked up off the scrap heap back in the day off of surgery and turned out pretty well for us.

Keeping with the pitching staff, the Cubs continue to inch closer to the bullpen for opening day as Rafael Dolis was optioned to AAA on Sunday. The main reason for the move was a blister he’s been dealing with. That leaves just three names remaining, Zach Putnam, Cory Wade and Hisanori Takahashi, who is the only lefty. All three are non-roster invitees, so in order for them to make the team a spot will need to be made for them on the 40 man roster. We’ve already established that Brent Lillibridge and some non-roster infielder should make the team. Adding one of these three to that count means three guys need to be removed from the list. Looking at the current 40 man roster, I see a few possibilities:

Scott Baker transferred to the 60 day DL, which opens up one spot, is an obvious choice. Robert Whitenack is another name that would potentially be designated for assignment in hopes no one claims him and he can be outrighted to AAA. That would clear two spots. Beyond that, it’s tough. I don’t know about you, but I’m on the edge of my seat, and I say that completely serious. These kind of speculative things cause me to completely dork out and obsess over. Keith Law was in attendance to scout a few Cubs prospects the other day and filed a report mentioning Whitenack.

Robert Whitenack, however, looked awful in his comeback from 2010 Tommy John surgery, sitting 85-87, way below what he was pre-surgery. He’s a cautionary tale for every one of us (myself included) who looks at that operation as risk-free. Most guys come all the way back, but maybe one in 10 don’t. (FULL STORY)

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail