Sept. 1 primer: How the Cubs are navigating roster expansion, playoff roster rules

MLB teams get two extra roster spots beginning Friday.

SHARE Sept. 1 primer: How the Cubs are navigating roster expansion, playoff roster rules
Cubs manager David Ross has been in plenty of discussions with president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer lately about potential September  call-ups.

Cubs manager David Ross has been in plenty of discussions with president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer lately about potential September call-ups.

AP Photos

Cubs manager David Ross remembers the excitement that September would bring when expanded rosters used to allow teams to call up any member of their 40-man roster.

“I always felt like as a player, the dog days of August came with some excitement of a playoff race and young guys experiencing that,” he said. 

He also remembers less rosy consequences of the old rules.

“There used to be a lot of annoyance of: We’ve got an extra BP group, and I’ve got to catch an extra bullpen of some rookie up here. What are we doing?” Ross said. “We’re in a playoff race, and I’m out here on my feet an extra 15 minutes at the back end of an eight-month process.”

Ross said he’s in favor of the limited roster expansion that has been in place since 2021. (The new rule was set to go into effect in 2020, but the pandemic-shortened season had its own set of roster-limit rules.)

“I like to keep the integrity of the game,” Ross said. “I think that helps that.” 

Roster expansion is just one wrinkle of Sept. 1. The date is also an important one for postseason roster eligibility, and therefore waiver claims and signings. To make the roster churn even more confusing, the Cubs will be navigating a doubleheader in Cincinnati on Friday. 

Here’s a refresher on the ins and outs of Sept. 1-related rules: 

Roster limits

Clubs carry 28 players on their active rosters in September, with a limit of 14 pitchers. For the Cubs, that means adding one pitcher and one position player. And players can cycle through those extra spots throughout the month.

Pitchers, including left-handers Luke Little and Brendon Little, are in the conversation to give the bullpen a lift. Right-hander Brad Boxberger (strained right forearm) has made five rehab appearances in Triple-A Iowa and checked in with the medical staff in Chicago this week. 

Prospect Ben Brown (left lat/oblique injury) has been throwing bullpens at the spring-training complex in Arizona, and vice president of player development Jared Banner said the Cubs hope to get him into a minor-league game in the next week or so. 

Position players who have put themselves on the radar for call-ups include Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario and Yonathan Perlaza. 

“There’s no starting job for any player that’s going to come up right now, and I don’t know that they’d be the first person to pinch-hit in any situation,” Ross said. “So I think there’s value in bringing guys up to feel this environment. I think there’s value in letting guys continue to develop that aren’t ready for the big leagues.”


The doubleheader Friday could force a roster churn right off the bat. The Cubs listed their starter for Game 2 as TBD. If they call up a pitcher to start, as opposed to opting for a bullpen game, veteran reliever Shane Greene has been stretching out as a starter in Triple-A. Right-hander Caleb Kilian also already occupies a 40-man roster spot.

Unlike the first four months of the season, when teams get a “27th man” for doubleheaders, the Cubs and Reds will not get extra help.

Playoff rosters

Players don’t necessarily have to be on the 40-man roster before Sept. 1 to join a postseason roster down the line — although all players on the 40-man roster by that deadline are eligible. A player just needs to be in the organization by Sept. 1 to be used as an injury replacement. That rule spurred a wave of waiver claims Thursday. 

“There’s also a lot of teams that get cracks at guys before we would,” Ross said.

Priority is determined by reverse winning percentage. The Cubs came up empty, but the Reds claimed outfielders Harrison Bader and Hunter Renfroe.


Friday: Game 1: Jordan Wicks (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Graham Ashcraft (7-8, 4.73),

12:10 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM. Game 2: TBD vs. TBD, 5:40 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM.

Saturday: Javier Assad (3-2, 2.96) vs. Andrew Abbott (8-4, 3.35), 5:40 p.m., Marquee, 670-AM.

Sunday: Jameson Taillon (7-9, 5.62) vs. Brandon Williamson (4-4, 4.20), 11:10 a.m., Marquee, 670-AM.

The Latest
Around 20 royal fans and their pet corgis gathered to walk their dogs outside the palace in central London to remember Queen Elizabeth II a year after her death.
Ma Operio, 61, was found unresponsive with a zip tie around her neck Wednesday in the 4400 block of Natchez Avenue. She died Sunday evening. A suspect is in custody.
‘Every step of the way I was almost like, “This isn’t actually going to happen,” ’ Austin Paramore said of his journey to get his graphic novel published.
About 7:05 p.m. Sunday, the boy was near the sidewalk in the 6000 block of South Elisabeth Street when he was shot in the head, police said. He’s in critical condition.
The Cubs beat the Reds 15-7 on Sunday to spit four games in Cincinnati.