2/17 Cubs notebook

Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker and Kosuke Fukudome are the three leading candidates to be the Cubs’ leadoff man. Manager Mike Quade plans on rotating the three during Cactus League games and would like to see someone assert themself and take the job. Fukudome, who has a career .368 on-base percentage in his three seasons with the Cubs, may be the best fit there.

“You can’t lose sight of the fact that if ‘Fuke’s’ in the lineup and it’s his day and he’s playing well, he’s the guy who fits best to me,” Quade said.

Quade did use Baker at the top of the order against some left-handed pitchers last season. Baker boasts a .350 average against lefties.

* Only the Nationals and the Pirates made more errors than the Cubs did last season and one of manager Mike Quade’s goals is to have the team play better defense. “We need to be better, period,” Quade said Thursday. “We talk about [Blake] DeWitt and we talk about [Starlin Castro] and those are two kids who have a lot of work to do in the middle of the diamond.

“If [Aramis Ramirez] is healthy, we should be fine,” Quade said. “I’ve seen [Carlos Pena]  play very good first base. Our catcher, [Geovany Soto], needs improvement throwing. Whether we improve marginally or a little bit or whatever, it will be a point of emphasis [this spring].

“These guys will understand we need to be better defensively,” Quade said. “I believe, like most clubs, pitching and defense will be huge. We’ve got some arms we’re excited about but we’ve got to make plays behind them.”

The Cubs finished with a .979 fielding percentage, tied for last in the National League with the Marlins, Nationals and Pirates.

* Young catcher Welington Castillo will get a good look this spring. Quade was impressed by his defense last season. Castillo needs to learn more about the mental aspect of catching and handling pitchers.

* The only position players not in camp are Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro and Fukudome. Catcher Max Ramirez has been delayed because of visa problems but was expected Friday. The first full squad workout is scheduled for Saturday.

* The Cubs didn’t waste any time getting pitcher Robert Coello some work. The right-hander, acquired from the Red Sox, threw a side session on Thursday.

– Carrie Muskat

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