Thursday, February 14, 2013
Lillibridge hopes versatility will win him job
By Jesse Rogers
MESA, Ariz. -- He might be a non-roster invitee but infielder/outfielder Brent Lillibridge has as good a chance as any to make the Chicago Cubs roster. His versatility is the key to his opportunity.
Brent Lillibridge proved with the White Sox that he can play just about anywhere on the field.
"Lillibridge is that guy that is slated to be that super utility guy that's played over there," manager Dale Sveum said on Wednesday after spring training workouts were complete. "He's got some sock in his bat for a guy that looks like he's 150 pounds soaking wet."
"Over there" is actually first base, where the Cubs have no one else is camp with experience behind starter Anthony Rizzo. Lillibridge has played 24 games at first in his five-year career.
"They better keep their throws low," the 5-foot-11 Lillibridge joked on his first day in camp.
He's also played every other position on the field except for pitcher and catcher.
"Outfield is there (polished)," Lillibridge said. "I got a lot more time in the infield, especially when I went to Cleveland, which was great. It was great to be back in there at shortstop, third base and second. It's more natural. I just want to be in that lineup."
Lillibridge is just one year removed from living in Chicago after playing for the White Sox from 2009-12. He was traded twice last season, from the White Sox to Boston and then Cleveland.
"Me and my wife love that place and we want to be back," Lillibridge said of Chicago. "The good thing about the free agent possibilities is you can really do your homework and put yourself in the best position, but at the same time I have to compete. There's no handouts in this game."
But he knows being able to use three different gloves at the major league level can only help his chances of sticking with the Cubs.
"It's a tough job, having all these gloves and not being able to hone in on one position," Lillibridge said. "But it's what's kept me in the game. The bat has to come around, too. I have to be able to swing the bat to be in there."
Although he batted .258 with 13 home runs with the White Sox in 2011, Lillibridge is only a career .213 hitter with a .276 on-base percentage in 649 at-bats over five years. That's just a little more than one season's worth so he has to make the most of his chances when he gets them. His best attribute might be as a pinch hitter where he has two home runs in 34 career at-bats.
"They said it's a good opportunity," Lillibridge said about what the Cubs brass has told him. "Now I just have to go out there and prove it."