2/16 Extra bases: Leadoff, Arrieta and more

* The Cubs have yet to play a game under new manager Rick Renteria, but it appears Starlin Castro is the top candidate to be the leadoff man. Castro has a career .300 average batting first, but also has a career .322 on-base percentage, which would not put in him the top 25 in the National League.

“Starlin has had that role in the past and I think he did a pretty nice job,” Renteria said Sunday. “He’s not what you would consider a typical on-base guy. I think that as he continues to get more and more comfortable, hopefully, this year is a year he recovers some of his confidence and that little edge that he brought and that you guys all saw when he was coming up. he’s an individual that is looking to do well.”

Castro batted .300 in 2010, his rookie season, and followed that with a .307 average in ’11. But last season, he struggled to bat .245.

Renteria is still tinkering with his lineup.

“We have the whole spring to develop a scheme as to who might fall into that role,” he said.

* Jake Arrieta, slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder, is taking part in the Cubs’ pitcher drills but has yet to throw off the mound. Arrieta has been able to play catch and so far, is making progress, manager Rick Renteria said Sunday.

* Renteria, who had hip replacement surgery in October, walked for nearly 45 minutes around the Cubs complex at 5 a.m. MT Sunday as part of his exercise. “The catchers are working early,” Renteria said. “I’m not asking them to be out and do anything I wouldn’t do. [My early work] kind of re-enforces that.”

* Besides Kris Bryant and Brett Jackson, Albert Almora and Josh Vitters also reported to Cubs camp on Sunday. The first full squad workout is Wednesday. “I’ve been pretty impressed with the fact that the numbers are kind of high,” Renteria said of the early birds. “It shows me a lot of interest. First of all, I’m sure they want to see the new facility. … No one is making them be here, they’ve chosen to be here. It’s nice to have them preparing for what will hopefully be a very good season.”

* Pitchers who threw their second side sessions on Sunday included Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, Blake Parker, and James McDonald. Renteria said he likes what he’s seen so far.

“Their energy is high,” Renteria said. “I’m hoping the tone that is set now will continue when the [position] players come in.”

— Carrie Muskat


Competition is big this year for third base, outfield and pitching………..Bryant, Almora, Soler, Baez will all start in the minors…..two invitees who have a shot I would say is Coghlan and Roberts……Sanchez might need more time in the minors to get his arm stronger.

I’m wanting Olt to emerge as the leading hot corner option.

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Black horse surprise this spring is that Vitters makes the cut at #25 IF/OF platoon off the bench, provides Renteria even roster/lineup flexibility, esp if Olt also makes the April squad. Vitters could play LF or 1B in spot starts if he can hit his projection, man an inning at 3B if called upon.

One could project a starting OF against RHP’s; Schierholtz-Sweeney-Lake (RF-LF), starting IF, Rizzo, Valbuena, Castro, Olt, Castillo (1B-2B-SS-3B-C) and bench of Kottaras (back up catcher), Ruggiano (RH 4th OF), Bonifacio (S/H utility IF/OF), and a surprise Vitters (IF/OF/PH)

That would leaves one or two spots open depending on how many pitchers are carried on 3/31, I think Cubs can go with 11 pitchers (4 starters) until the 18th of April. But the competition appears to be for the last platoon IF’er, between Murphy, Barney, Roberts, Valaika & Valdez. and possibly a 6th OF’er between Kalish, Coghlan, Maier, RJax and Szszur.

Vitters if he can hit and adequately field a position would offer the Cubs on paper the ability to carry another LH OF bat, and utility IF’er. Bonifacio offers the Cubs defensive versatility and base running in late innings where he then can be placed anywhere on the diamond.

Honestly it appears with these numbers and players Barney’s days are numbered.

Am clueless regarding the “black horse” reference. Please elucidate.

Cubs fans can begin to scratch Homer Bailey off of their 2014-15 Free Agent wish list……he is about to sign a six year deal with the Reds……..

I like to see Vitters make the club, but I think he is in a numbers game and he can serve well with more minor league at bats then sitting on the bench……Vitters is not a pinch hitter, he needs to get at least three bats per game to get his swings in……for Vitters to get a starting LF job, Lake has to be sent to the minors.

If Coghlan is anything like his rookie season, he starts in CF…….

Dark Horse to make this club…..non-invitee infielder Roberts.

Not that I am a professional scout, but watching Roberts play while with the D Backs, he was hustle, as in Charlie Hustle. The guy was all over. Anyway, he can play 3B & 2B.
There are going to be some INF’s going elsewhere at the end of this camp, especially if Olt makes the 25 man Roster.

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