|ESPN.com: Baseball||[Print without images]|
CHICAGO -- Highly acclaimed Cubs prospect Jorge Soler will get into a game for the first time Thursday as the designated hitter for the club's Mesa affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League.
Soler, a native of Cuba whose signing was made official at the end of June, was coveted by a number of teams after he defected, but the Cubs signed him with a nine-year, $30 million deal.
After he signed, Soler was sent to the Cubs' spring-training complex to receive instruction and work on fundamentals.
"He has taken several days worth of live (batting practice) to get his timing down," team president Theo Epstein said. "He will DH (Thursday) and then probably play the field the next day."
The 20-year-old outfielder is expected to be moved to a higher level after getting himself established in the Arizona Rookie League, which means he could wind up at Single-A Boise or even as high as Single-A Peoria before the end of the season.
"At some point, we'll consider (a promotion) but we want to let him get his feet wet down there," Epstein said.
First-round draft pick Albert Almora also has been receiving instruction in Mesa, but he isn't as far along as Soler so the Cubs aren't ready to put him into games.
"He's going to need more live BPs before he gets in a game," Epstein said. "His (high school) season ended a while ago."
Like Soler, Almora is expected to start playing games with the Mesa club and then move on from there if the organization thinks he is ready for a higher level of play.