Cubs find another catching option in Dioner Navarro

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Cubs find another catching option in Dioner Navarro

The Cubs added to their catching depth on Thursday by signing Dioner Navarro, a one-time All-Star.

Sources confirmed the agreement, which CBS Sports reported at 1.75 million for next season, when Navarro will be 29 years old and a veteran presence next to Welington Castillo.

Team president Theo Epstein has described Castillo as a possible core player, and manager Dale Sveum has described the 25-year-old catcher as a potential Gold Glove winner and future All-Star, someone who will make a lot of money in this game.

Sveum viewed Castillo as probably the teams most improved player during the second half of last season as he learned how to manage the pitching staff and call a game.

Navarro who appeared in 24 games with the Cincinnati Reds last season and spent a significant amount of the year at the Triple-A level could help in those areas.

Navarro emerged as an All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, hitting .295 with seven homers and 54 RBI in 120 games, though hes struggled to maintain that level of production.

That year Navarro also got into a dugout scrap with Matt Garza, but that didnt stop the Rays from making a miracle run to the World Series.

Garza who went on to eliminate Epsteins Boston Red Sox and become the ALCS MVP has described the incident as a good learning experience that showed him you have to control your emotions. With Garza (elbow) now cleared to resume his normal offseason training program, it looks like they will be reunited on the North Side.

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell believes he will be ready for Opening Night. Right now, Cubs manager Joe Maddon says his All-Star shortstop starting the season on the disabled list is an option that "I'm not considering."

But Russell hasn't played in a Cactus League game since March 22 and the Cubs have only three exhibitions left before facing the St. Louis Cardinals on national TV. The new 10-day disabled list would also allow the Cubs to backdate Russell's injury (stiff back) to March 30 and create a degree of roster flexibility. 

"We're trying to start the season out on a good note and definitely in St. Louis," Russell said Tuesday. "That's kind of the goal, but if the back doesn't feel well until then, maybe that's something that we'll have to do. With the way that I'm feeling, I don't think that's necessary."

The Cubs did get Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) back into the lineup that afternoon against the San Francisco Giants at Sloan Park. Russell estimated he's around "95 percent" and hoped to play Wednesday before the Cubs leave Arizona and fly out for two exhibition games against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.      

"We're not trying to take it too quick," Russell said. "Missing a few games here in the spring is a lot better than a few games in the season. I've talked to Joe and there's no hurry back."

Five days out from what should be an electric atmosphere at Busch Stadium, Maddon said athletic trainer PJ Mainville didn't sound concerned about Russell's back issue.

"PJ felt very strongly that he's going to be fine over the next couple days," Maddon said. "From Addison's perspective, knowing baseball players who've been doing so well, you take a couple days off, you're concerned that you're going to lose it. 

"I'm certain he's going to be fine. Actually, I'm OK with him getting some rest right now. The biggest thing is: Medically, is he going to be fine? Everybody thinks that he is, so I'm not concerned."

Cubs release Munenori Kawasaki and keep the door open for his return

Cubs release Munenori Kawasaki and keep the door open for his return

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs released Munenori Kawasaki on Tuesday, allowing the popular, high-energy Japanese infielder to see what's out there while still keeping the door open for his return.

The timing would also allow the Cubs to avoid paying the $100,000 retention bonus to Kawasaki, who's played parts of five big-league seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and last year's World Series team.

"Hopefully, we get a chance to sign him back," manager Joe Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "A guy like him needs to take advantage of how well he's playing and possibly see if there's a chance to get a major-league job."

With that move, the Cubs cut the roster to 30 players on their second-to-last day in the Cactus League this spring. Between Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez – and prospects like Ian Happ and Chesny Young – the Cubs would appear to be covered up the middle for now. 

"You can never have enough middle infielders," Maddon said. "I'd love to have him, no question. Hopefully, he's going to be back. Again, this is one of those things where the word 'release' is a very harsh word, but I think it can be rectified possibly. I hope he comes back to us."