Renteria spreading around playing time
April, 2, 2014
By Jesse Rogers
PITTSBURGH -- If you're trying to figure out how new Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria is going to utilize his 25-man roster this season you're probably going to need more time. Renteria isn't giving many hints on who is an everyday player -- outside of the obvious choices -- and who isn't.
"Just trying to give them all an opportunity to get out there and play and try and match them up to have the best opportunity to have some success," Renteria said before the Cubs played the Pirates Wednesday evening.
Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY SportsJunior Lake is out of the lineup Wednesday against Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton.
There's not a lot of reading between the lines to be had in that statement. Most want to know if potential core players Junior Lake and Mike Olt are everyday starters. Both played on Monday in the season opener but neither is starting on Wednesday against righty Charlie Morton of the Pirates. Lefties Luis Valbuena and Ryan Kalish are playing third base and left field, respectively.
"Lake broke in last year so we're still trying to see where he's at, so we're going to give him chances to continue to chip away at who he is as a player," Renteria said. "Olt is just breaking in, realistically speaking, so we have to make sure we balance his usage and make sure we're taking care of everything we've been taking care of (a sore shoulder) during the spring and give him enough starts to make him comfortable."
Most likely the two are going to have to win the jobs by showing they can hit righties and lefties equally. There's nothing wrong with that as long as they get their opportunities. But Renteria isn't one to buck common sense. The switch-hitting Emilio Bonifacio is playing again on Wednesday, this time at second base in place of Darwin Barney, after Bonifacio had a 4-hit day on Monday.
"I think it's just an opportunity to get guys in and use them in the different positions that they can possibly play, keep them comfortable," Renteria said. "That doesn't mean Barney is not going to face righties, not at all."
Drawing conclusions from two days' worth of lineups would be a mistake, especially in the first week of the season and especially with a right-hander (Morton) on the mound following a left-hander (Francisco Liriano) and a day game (Thursday) following a night game (Wednesday).
"The more we can balance out their usage over the course of the season I think it puts us in a better position to come off the bench or any number of things," Renteria said.
But back to the most important point: Are Lake and Olt everyday players? At some point soon they should get at-bats like they are so the Cubs know what they have long-term with those two players. Barney's situation is less important. He's going to be hard-pressed to keep his starting job past this season as the Cubs' infield prospects are almost ready for prime time.
Of course, nothing should get in the way of a player who's playing well. Bonifacio is case No. 1.
"When guys get hot you try to take advantage of it. I'm no different," Renteria said.