MESA, ARIZONA – Munenori Kawasaki will begin the season in the minors, the Chicago Cubs said Tuesday.
The Japanese utility infielder was not part of the 25-man opening-day roster named by manager Joe Maddon and, barring injuries to the team, will head to Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs released Kawasaki earlier in the day, but re-signed the 34-year-old to a new minor-league deal to avoid paying $100,000 for having him on the roster.
Kawasaki has had a good spring, hitting .375 in 19 games through Monday.
“The team told me I was fired. I knew it was coming, but it still hurt,” Kawasaki said. “But 30 minutes later, they asked me to re-sign. I signed right away.”
Maddon spoke highly of Kawasaki, saying he will get his chance at some point this season.
“He’s a good baseball player,” Maddon said. “He gets a lot of publicity based on his personality, but this guy is also a very good player.
“He couldn’t have had a better spring training. What he was lacking was opportunity. There’s enough people right now based on the personnel we had in-house.”