4/2 Happy b-day to Stewart, Clevenger

Ian Stewart celebrated his 25th birthday on April 5, 2010, in a big way with a Major League milestone. He homered that day in his first plate appearance — and on the first pitch he swung at — and became the first player in Major League history to homer in his first at-bat in the season opener on his birthday. The only other player to homer on his birthday in the season opener was Scott Rolen in 2000.

Stewart was playing for the Rockies in Milwaukee and connected on a 3-0 pitch from the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo. On Thursday, Stewart will start at third for the Cubs when they open the season against the Nationals at Wrigley Field. It’s his 27th birthday.

“[Nice] birthday present — spend your birthday in Chicago playing for the Cubs,” he said.

Stewart is definitely ready for the regular season to start. The Cubs third baseman has played solid defense and feels good at the plate.

“I feel like I’ve been ready for maybe a week,” he said. “My swing’s been good, my timing’s been on at the plate. Usually, it takes hitters two to three weeks at the most to be feeling good. Obviously, we’re here longer [in Spring Training] for the pitchers. I’m looking forward to a couple of days from now.”

What’s also been encouraging is how his left wrist has responded this spring. He was able to steal a base and survived.

“I still have that bad habit of kind of dragging my wrist,” Stewart said of his slide. “I have tape on and a padded wrist band thing and I also have a hard splint that I put on for baserunning. That’s helped big time. When you’ve slid that way for your whole life it’s hard to break and I’m trying but it’s comforting to know that the braces and stuff are working, too.”

For trivia buffs, there have been two Cubs who celebrated a birthday by playing on Opening Day. Ross Barnes did so on May 8, 1877, when he turned 27. He went 2-for-4 and scored twice. On April 2, 2001, Jon Lieber took the loss on his 31st birthday, a 5-4 decision to the Expos.

And Stewart won’t be the only one celebrating. Thursday is backup catcher Steve Clevenger’s 26th birthday.

— Carrie Muskat

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