Bonifacio's energy just what Cubs need

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
8:00
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- If you’re watching a Cubs game and you see a player get a hit and flash a sideways V over his eye, then "lo viste."

You saw "it."

[+] EnlargeEmilio Bonifacio
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsEmilio Bonifacio's enthusiasm and spirit have been well-received in the Cubs' clubhouse this season.
So, what is "lo viste?"

It’s leadoff hitter/utility man Emilio Bonifacio's personal catchphrase, one of many things the team's one-man pep band brought over to the Cubs this season.

As Bonifacio explained, it means "'Did you see it?' or 'you see it.' It’s not like a question."

Bonifacio started doing the "lo viste" during a 26-game hitting streak in 2011 with the Marlins, but it didn’t really catch on until the 2012 season as the Marlins started doing it in spring training.

Plenty of teams have little inside jokes and rally gestures, like the Pittsburgh Pirates doing the “Zoltan” salute last season. Will this work to embody the new, fun-loving #CubsWay?

Well, it should be noted that the 2012 Marlins were a dumpster fire of a team that cost manager Ozzie Guillen his job, so it’s not like this rally cry has a ton of success behind it.

But, hey, it’s fun, and fun was in short supply the past two seasons as the Cubs lost 197 games combined.

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"It’s perfect," Starlin Castro said. "We enjoy it a lot."

Bonifacio, a minor league spring training invite turned one-week folk hero, even had shirts printed for the season opener that feature a Cub (not Clark) doing the "lo viste."

"[Baseball] is a job, but it’s still a game," he said after the Cubs blew a four-run lead in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday. "You gotta enjoy it. When you enjoy it, it makes your life a little easier."

The addition of Bonifacio, who is hitting .452 with nine runs and seven stolen bases in his first nine games, has been a boon for what was expected to be a meager Cubs offense. Instead, the Cubs' offense is just … meh.

And in a clubhouse lacking that veteran mainstay leadership, he was the perfect addition.

"Yeah, he can change things," Castro said. "We're having fun here. He’s one of the guys. He makes you enjoy the game, makes you play hard."

On Thursday, Bonifacio went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run, but he continued to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He walked to lead off the game, stole second and was thrown out at third. But then, he reached in the third on Gerrit Cole’s throwing error, then stole second and scored on catcher Tony Sanchez’s throwing error.

Five spots down in the order, the guy we thought might lead off continued to rake.

[+] EnlargeStarlin Castro
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsStarlin Castro says he's feeling comfortable hitting sixth in the lineup because "we got men in scoring position."
Castro has had success hitting leadoff, and manager Rick Renteria insinuated he might return him to that spot. Instead, Castro has hit second and third, and, on Thursday, he hit sixth for the third game. He’s 7-for-12 with six RBIs in that spot. Small sample size, yes, but he’s happy there.

"Yeah, we got men in scoring position," he said.

Castro, now hitting .342, had three hits -- all singles -- against the constantly shifting Pirates. He hit one past first base, one past third to score a run and one past shortstop in the Cubs’ failed rally in the ninth.

While Bonifacio's early production is a nice surprise, getting Castro back to his 2011 form is key to the Cubs putting together at least a mediocre season, not to mention those grandiose future plans we hear so much about.

"Tough year," Castro said of a disastrous 2013 that helped cost the previous coaching staff their jobs. "I don’t want to think about last year. This is a new year."

No more trying to get Castro to be a different hitter. He’s doing him and it’s working out, offensively and defensively.

"I’m trying to be me -- be aggressive," he said. "If I strike out, I strike out. If I get a hit, I get a hit. I come back the next game and be aggressive the same."

The Cubs are only 3-6 with a tough road trip on tap. No one is expecting much from this team, with good reason. But with Bonifacio at the top of the order and Castro feeling comfortable somewhere below, they could at least have some fun. That would be something we'd all like to see.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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