CHICAGO – The improvements Josh Vitters needs to make will have to take place behind the scenes over the next few days as the young third baseman has started to see limited playing time.
Vitters was brought up in August to get some exposure at the major-league level, but so far all that has happened is that he has been exposed himself.
Vitters entered play Wednesday with a .108 batting average and .157 on-base percentage. On defense, he continues to have problems making accurate throws to first base on routine plays.
“His throwing on the spontaneous play is, it’s the routine play that’s giving him trouble,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That might be one of those things where you drop down, you throw side arm. Talking to him, the bottom line, once you get to the big leagues, we don’t really care how it gets down, just get it done.”
The coaching staff is currently trying to assess if a traditional method of defense suits Vitters best or if he needs to put his own signature on how he plays in the field. Sveum talked about guys like Carney Lansford and Cal Ripken, who incorporated a side-arm throwing motion, while Robin Ventura used to play deep and charge balls.
“For certain people, they can do things by the book, but when you play third base, it’s more spontaneous, it’s more how you get the job done, what’s more comfortable to you,” Sveum said. “If you watch some of the great third basemen of all time, none of them were the prototypical of the way you teach infield play.
“It’s such a position where you don’t get many routine plays. There are a lot of different bounces, different angles, obviously swinging bunts.”
Vitters isn’t expected to play much on the remaining homestand with games against contenders Cincinnati and St. Louis remaining. He could start getting more chances when the Cubs hit the road for Colorado and Arizona next week.
While Vitters hasn’t shown much in his short big-league stint so far, Sveum wasn’t about to say that the Cubs will be interested in finding somebody else for third base next year. They also have Luis Valbuena on the roster, with Ian Stewart arbitration eligible this offseason.
“We don’t know,” Sveum said. “Wherever we have the resources to spend money we don’t know where we’re going to spend it right now. Obviously we have some holes in a lot of areas that might need to be fixed and we don’t know exactly where that money is going to go.
“Valbuena is going to be part of the organization and he does a heck of a job himself. We don’t know what is going to happen there. Being pushed (by a third baseman from outside the organization) isn’t exactly one thing to look at now. You have to be the guy before getting pushed.”