Olt close to return to playing third


MESA, Ariz. -- You would think Chicago Cubs infielder Mike Olt would be itching to play third base, his natural position, in spring games. After all, there's no clear cut starter there and Olt was a rising prospect at third base before vision problems slowed him down last season.

This spring he's been hampered by a sore throwing shoulder, limiting his game action to first base and designated hitter.

"It's been a good thing for me to get familiar at first base," Olt said Monday morning. "I won't lose anything at third base. I want to be a versatile player."

That versatility might help him make the Cubs, who don't have a backup for starter Anthony Rizzo. Olt is no longer guaranteed anything at third base, but it's still the place he can get every day at-bats if he makes the team.

"I've thrown there the last couple of days," said Olt, who is 3 for 14 with a home run and six strikeouts in 14 at-bats this spring. "My velocity is right where it needs to be ... I've had (shoulder tenderness) almost every year. You get here, you get excited and you throw a little too much."

Manager Rick Renteria said it will be Olt's overall game that determines whether he makes the team.

"He's building up to it," Renteria said of Olt playing third. "We're going to keep going out there and make sure he's progressing and feeling comfortable. I'll say shortly he should be over there."

The question is if there is enough time for him to win the job at third outright. If he doesn't do it this year he may never get the chance. The No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, Kris Bryant, probably isn't far from making it to the major leagues.

The odds are against Olt right now but after a rough 2013, he isn't too concerned.

"I'm extremely happy with the way I feel especially compared to last year and even in years past," he said. "I definitely feel I'm ahead of schedule there.

"I really don't want to think about making the team. Whatever happens, happens."