There were times in the offseason when it was uncertain if Ian Stewart was coming back. The Cubs looked at some 3B options from young talents such as Lonnie Chisenhall and Mike Olt to veteran role players like Jeff Keppinger. The Cubs were unsuccessful in all of those pursuits, so they turned to Stewart again, but the catch was that it would be on a non-guaranteed contract. In other words, he had to make good this spring or the Cubs could conceivably cut him loose without financial loss.
The Cubs want him to make good. He's the player with the prospect pedigree and the upside the Cubs gambled on last season, only to see him struggle with his wrist injury then finish the year on the DL.
Meanwhile Luis Valbuena filled in at 3B, had some tough luck on offense but continued to play great defense. Then this winter in the Venezuelan League (.306/.414/.497), Valbuena seemed to find the stroke he showed in AAA Iowa (.303/.378/.507) prior to his call-up.
In a post by Carrie Muskat today, Manager Dale Sveum addressed his two 3B and the current situation...
Sveum has raved about Valbuena’s defensive skills and said this spring that third base is Ian Stewart’s job to win. But Stewart is sidelined with a strained left quad. Could Valbuena be the Cubs starting third baseman?
“Like I said, it was [Stewart's] job to win, not to lose,” Sveum said. “Things might change because who knows when Stewart will be back to play. I know Valbuena can play third. He doesn’t need to play third to get his at-bats.
“The guy had good winter ball, and obviously put a good swing on a ball today,” Sveum said after Friday’s intrasquad game, in which Valbuena hit a two-run home run. “I’m not too concerned about Valbuena. I need to see him everywhere. If things work out that way, then yeah, he’ll be playing third base quite a bit. First half of spring you’ll see him a lot more at other positions.”
So far it seems that the job is still Stewart's to win and he looked great early on, hitting the ball well in batting practice and then promptly doubling off the wall in his first spring AB. But nothing is guaranteed yet. He's going to have to show up to win that job. If he is unable to stay healthy, then Valbuena will be ready to fill in again.
Filed under: Uncategorized