CHICAGO -- The best new storyline to a dismal Chicago Cubs season showed no signs of slowing down on Saturday in the team’s 11-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Arismendy Alcantara played a flawless center field -- just his 12th time playing there this season and first in the big leagues -- while collecting two more hits and scoring two runs.
"He looked very smooth," manager Rick Renteria said after the game about Alcantara’s defense. "He looked exactly the way he did [shagging fly balls] in batting practice the other day. He’s obviously an athlete, has a feel, looks like his reaction and routes were good. And he has a good arm."
Alcantara went to his left and his right with ease while a gusting wind out to center kept things interesting. He made four putouts on the afternoon, begging the question which position he would like to play.
"It doesn’t matter," Alcantara said. "I just want to be in the lineup that day. I just want to play the game."
Undoubtedly, he would be more comfortable in the infield, where he’s played shortstop and second base in the minors. Renteria wouldn’t publicly commit to Alcantara starting on Sunday, but it would be a shock if the player with seven hits in his first 18 at-bats (.389) isn’t in the lineup the day before the All-Star break begins. He’s scored five runs in his first four games, setting the table at the top of the lineup, as he did with a leadoff double on Saturday. That was long before the game got out of hand.
"It’s something special for me," Alcantara said of being in the big leagues. "I can’t explain it to you."
So, will he stay with the Cubs after the break? That’s all anyone wants to know.
"We’ll have conversations," Renteria said before the game. "I can’t tell you when, but I’m sure we’ll have conversations."
The Cubs have several options. The simplest one might be to send a pitcher down to the minors, as they’ve carried 13 for much of the season. With the All-Star break, their relief corps will be well rested, and the need to baby arms after the four-day break might not be as necessary right away. By the time it does, the trade deadline will be upon us and the Cubs will undoubtedly make a move or two with a position player. That would open the spot for Alcantara to stay.
If the Cubs need to play Emilio Bonifacio to show teams he’s healthy when he returns, or even Darwin Barney to show them he’s still viable, then so be it. Nothing is written that Alcantara has to start every day -- as much as anyone watching the Cubs wants it.
"When we get together as an organization and discuss those things, we have to take in a lot of factors," Renteria said. "We’ll come to a good conclusion, sound decision. That’s best for us as a club and best for the organization."
Or the Cubs could send Junior Lake or Mike Olt down to the minors in light of their struggles. Or maybe the Cubs will make a deal during the break. The front office has stated on many occasions that once the Cubs promote, they don’t want to go backward. After changing their minds about Alcantara going back to the minors when Barney came off paternity leave, the writing should be on the wall. Keep him.
"Whatever they want me to," Alcantara said. "I don’t expect that [staying]. I just try to play good baseball."