Lillibridge taking advantage of opportunity

Brent Lillibridge's versatility has made him a valuable commodity for the Cubs. Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Ariz. -- With less than two weeks before Opening Day, the Chicago Cubs' roster has begun to take shape.

Ian Stewart will start the season on the DL. A platoon at the third base will include Luis Valbuena and non- roster invitee Brent Lillibridge.

"So many guys get to the big leagues because of someone else's misfortune," said manager Dale Sveum. "That is how I got to the big leagues. Paul Molitor got hurt and they called me up."

Lillibridge and his agent filtered through five offers in the offseason. They felt the National League -- and the Cubs in particular -- offered the best options for playing time in 2013.

"He is swinging the bat really well and he is killing left-handers right now," Sveum said. "He is playing well everywhere and putting some great swings on the ball against left-hand pitching."

Sveum all but confirmed Lillibridge has made the team.

"Any player like that is such a commodity for as manager in the National League," Sveum said. "You can give so many people days off. He can play the outfield, he can pinch-run and steal a base. He can also hit the ball out of the park. That is very valuable in the National League.”

Lillibridge has spent his entire career in the American League after being traded from the Braves to the White Sox in December, 2008.

"I told the Cubs before I signed that I did not want any handout or deserve any handouts," Lillibridge said. "I wanted to prove to them and myself that not only I could make a team but be a valuable contributor."

Lillibridge had a career year in 2011, hitting a personal high 13 home runs. The 2012 season was another matter. He struck out an alarming 71 times in 190 at-bats.

“It was really all about my hands," he said. "There was a little too much movement in my approach. I put in plenty of solid work in during the offseason to correct the flaw."

Lillibridge spent time with the White Sox, Red Sox and Indians in 2012. He has played seven positions during spring training.