Results tagged ‘ Luis Valbuena ’

4/8 To platoon or not

In the first seven games of the season, Cubs manager Rick Renteria has used a lefty-righty platoon at third base and the outfield with his lineup, and said he’ll continue to do that.

“At this point, we’re still allowing these guys the opportunity to use the splits that end up existing, righty-lefty,” Renteria said. “At some point, these guys will end up playing against both righties and lefties.”

So far, left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish are starting against right-handers, while right-handed hitting Mike Olt and Junior Lake face the lefty starting pitchers. Emilio Bonifacio, a switch-hitter, usually switches to the outfield against southpaws.

At some point, though, Renteria said he will likely abandon the platoon. It depends on the player.

“It’s the seventh game of the season today,” Renteria said Tuesday. “As the season progresses, and I start to see them playing more and they have pinch-hit at-bats in the ballgame … a lot of those things are giving me a lot of information and feedback leading me to where we might ultimately go.”

Performance is key, he said.

“You might have someone say, ‘Well, I can’t perform unless I have four, five regular at-bats every single day,’” Renteria said. “The reality is every time you get an opportunity to hit, that’s an opportunity. How good the at-bat is, how the approach is — you don’t have to get a hit to have a good approach. It could be a productive at-bat without getting a hit. You take all those factors into play and hopefully make the right decision.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/27 Olt makes Opening Day roster

Mike Olt knew from the first pitch he saw in live batting practice that his vision problems were over. On Thursday, he found out he was going to be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.

A first-round pick by the Rangers in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Olt began 2013 at Triple-A Round Rock, and was batting .139 on April 25 when he asked for some help. In November 2012, he was hit in the head while playing in the Dominican Republic winter league, and was having problems seeing. He’s overcome the vision problems, and battled a tender right shoulder this spring in camp.

“We’re excited for Mike,” GM Jed Hoyer said. “I think he’s proved himself here in Spring Training but he probably feels like he’s got a lot more to prove. This is the exhibition season and now we have to go play real games. I’m excited for him that he was able to come in here and do what he did in Spring Training.”

When did Olt know he was over his vision problems?

“First pitch of live BP,” he said. “Picking up the spin is just what I needed. Last year, I couldn’t pick up the spin. This year, I was able to see the ball and get a good curveball to hit instead of swinging at something in the dirt. I was happy with the swings I’ve made this spring training. Even my strikeouts have been some of my best at-bats.”

Getting the news was a bit of redemption.

“I worked hard this offseason coming from last year,” he said. “It was a tough year. I think it made me a better player, a better person. Just a little bump in the road. I know what I’m capable of doing. I’m just happy I was able to come here and do my job.

“I was extremely excited [at the news]. Just to get an opportunity like this is something that every kid dreams about. Now that it’s really true, I haven’t had time to really sit back and think about it, but it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

He hopes to be able to play every day but the Cubs will monitor his shoulder.

Olt is excited about what he’s seen in Cubs camp so far.

“Theo and Jed have a plan going for the Cubs,” Olt said. “Just listening to it, you get goosebumps with what they’re trying to do. To be a part of that is definitely something special.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/21 Cubs 7, White Sox 0

Luis Valbuena hit two home runs and drove in four runs to lead the Cubs to a 7-0 victory over the White Sox Friday in Glendale. Chris Rusin was the winning pitcher, giving up two hits over five scorless innings. The lefty combined with Alberto Cabrera, Wesley Wright, Jonathan Sanchez and Brian Schlitter on the shutout, holding the White Sox to three hits. Junior Lake had two hits, including a RBI single, and Ryan Kalish drove in a run. Javier Baez had to leave the game after suffering a right heel contusion in the sixth. He walked off the field on his own, and was to be re-evaluated on Saturday.

* On Saturday, the Cubs will play host to the Reds at Cubs Park in Mesa. Edwin Jackson gets the start against lefty Tony Cingrani.

* Fans are encouraged to take part in the Cubs wives mystery ball fundraiser, which will be held in left field of Cubs Park. For $30, fans will get an autographed ball, signed by a player or a seventh-inning stretch singer. Proceeds go to Paz de Cristo in Mesa.

– Carrie Muskat

3/18 Two weeks to go

The Cubs have a night game Tuesday in Surprise against the Rangers. There are 13 games remaining in Spring Training. Is it crunch time?

“I think some people are slow Spring Training guys, and a lot of us are like, ‘OK, let’s get going,’ so they’re hitting their stride when the season starts,” Donnie Murphy said. “I wouldn’t say it’s ‘crunch time.’ It’s more getting more hits, having more solid at-bats the closer you get to the season more than anything.”

What do the Cubs still have to do? Here’s a list:

1. Complete the rotation

Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel are set. James McDonald threw two pitches on Monday, and was pulled because of shoulder stiffness. That leaves Chris Rusin, who has looked really good, and Tsuyoshi Wada as options for the fifth spot. Carlos Villanueva also could step in if needed, although Rick Renteria says they like the right-hander more as a swing man. Villanueva will start Wednesday.

2. Finalize the bullpen spots

Jose Veras is set at closer. Who sets him up? James Russell should be fine after being slowed with a tired arm. The Cubs have to decide what to do with Jonathan Sanchez, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Blake Parker. Alberto Cabrera has given up one run on three hits in five innings over five games, and he’s out of options. The surprise this spring has been Arodys Vizcaino, who has served up two hits and one walk over three innings in three games. He’s throwing 98 mph.

3. Third base

Do the Cubs go with a combo of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, or do they give the job to Mike Olt? Olt has been unable to play third because of a tender right shoulder, but will get time there this week. He’s batting .241 with 11 strikeouts, but also shares the team lead with three home runs.

4. Figure out the bench

Junior Lake has struggled this spring. Is he ready for full work? Or is Ryan Kalish a better option for the outfield, even though he’s another left-handed bat. Chris Valaika can play anywhere but is batting .207 this spring. They like Emilio Bonifacio as a leadoff option.

5. Enjoy the kid

Javier Baez started at second base on Monday, and the Cubs want him to play third base as well before Cactus League games finish. The front office has repeated over and over that Baez will open as Iowa’s shortstop. These last two weeks will give Renteria and others one last look at their top prospect.

– Carrie Muskat

2/24 Support for Venezuela

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Cubs players showed their support for family and friends in Venezuela dealing with the political unrest there. Pictured, left to right, are coach Franklin Font, infielder Arismendy Alcantara, infielder Luis Valbuena, outfielder Jorge Soler, infielder Javier Baez and pitcher Miguel Cabrera.

1/17 Four Cubs sign; four swap numbers

The Cubs avoided arbitration with outfielder Nate Schierholtz, infielder Luis Valbuena and relievers James Russell and Pedro Strop on Friday, and exchanged salary figures with their other four arbitration eligible players, including Jeff Samardzija.

Schierholtz signed for $5 million, while Valbuena agreed to a $1.71 million contract and Russell signed a $1.775 million deal with the Cubs. Strop signed a $1.325 million contract.

The other four arbitration eligible players exchanged salary figures. The Cubs offered Samardzija $4.4 million, and he is seeking $6.2 million. Travis Wood filed for $4.25 million, and the Cubs countered at $3.5 million; Darwin Barney filed for $2.8 million, and the team offered $1.8 million. Justin Ruggiano, who the Cubs acquired in a trade with the Marlins for Brian Bogusevic, was seeking $2.45 million, and the team offered $1.6 million.

The players and the Cubs will continue to negotiate. Arbitration hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21 if no settlement is reached before then.

– Carrie Muskat

1/17 Cubs and Valbuena

The Cubs have reportedly reached a contract agreement with infielder Luis Valbuena and avoided arbitration. According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, Valbuena has signed a $1.71 million contract with the Cubs. The third baseman is one of eight Cubs who filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday. Figures were to be exchanged today. Arbitration hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21.

Valbuena made $930,000 last year, and was projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to receive $1.5 million this year. He appeared in the most games at third base for the Cubs in 2013, batting .218 with 12 home runs and 14 doubles.

Other Cubs who filed for salary arbitration include Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Darwin Barney, Nate Schierholtz, James Russell, Pedro Strop, and Justin Ruggiano. Wood could get the biggest increase. The lefty, who was 9-12 last season, posting career-highs in starts and innings pitched, earned $527,500 in 2013 and was projected to receive $3.6 million this year.

A quick refresher on salary arbitration: Eligible players are those with at least three years of Major League service but less than six years needed to qualify for free agency. If a case goes to a hearing, the player and the team each present their case to a three-member panel.

– Carrie Muskat

12/28 Winter ball update

Luis Valbuena hit his fourth home run but it wasn’t enough as Lara lost to Caribes, 6-5, because of a walk-off two-run homer by Jackson Melian on Friday. Valbuena, who connected on a two-run home run with one out in the first, is batting .303 this winter.

* Carlos Marmol, a free agent, pitched for Licey, and picked up a hold, giving up one hit in two-thirds of an inning.

12/9 Extra bases

* Besides looking for bullpen help and another starting pitcher, the Cubs are searching for players who will be good role models for the current youngsters on the roster.

“I think people forget how young guys like [Anthony] Rizzo and [Starlin] Castro are,” GM Jed Hoyer said Monday at the Winter Meetings. “They need some positive examples.”

The Cubs are hoping new first base coach Eric Hinske can fill that role as well.

“He did a great job as a bench player and being a team leader,” Hoyer said of Hinske, who played last season for the Diamondbacks. “It was always about having different influences on the coaching staff for our players. You want to have different avenues. [Players] might gravitate toward the guy who has been teaching for a long time, or they might gravitate toward the guy who just came off the field.”

* Luis Valbuena, who led the Cubs with 94 starts at third base last season, has been playing strictly second base in the Venezuelan Winter League. That’s by design.

“We want him to be versatile and he is versatile,” Hoyer said. “[Darwin] Barney can play shortstop, Valbuena can play some shortstop, Donnie Murphy can play some shortstop. We have a really versatile infield and that’s a great thing. We may not have to carry a standard utility guy and can mix and match in different ways.”

Speaking of Barney, Hoyer said he expects the second baseman to have a much better season than he did in 2013.

“It’s a big year for him, no matter what,” Hoyer said of Barney, who batted .208 this season. “He had a down year offensively and he’d be the first person to say that. I don’t think it has anything to do with competition among young players. He wants to bounce back and get back to where he was.

“With him, mechanically and approach-wise, he got caught with some things last year,” Hoyer said. “A lot of things with him isn’t the hard work or the swing, it’s the approach.”

The team does have a promising second baseman in Arismendy Alcantara, ranked No. 8 among MLB.com’s top 20 Cubs prospects, but he will open the season at Triple-A Iowa, Hoyer said.

* Andy MacPhail, who was the Cubs’ president and CEO from 1994-2006, including a two-year stint as the general manager (2000-01), is keeping an eye on how the current Chicago front office is trying to rebuild the organization.

“They have to do it the way they’re comfortable with and the way they think most guarantees their success, and I know that’s what that group is doing,” MacPhail said Monday at the Winter Meetings.

“I have a lot of confidence in that group that they’re going to do it the way they think will most assuredly get them the end goal because that’s the prize, winning the whole thing,” MacPhail said. “We got close [in 2003]. You ultimately aren’t successful until you at least get to the World Series.”

* Outfielder Ryan Sweeney hoped to begin work this week with Hall of Famer Rod Carew. The two worked together last season, and Sweeney said he benefitted from the sessions. Sweeney batted .266 in 70 games with the Cubs, and signed a two-year contract extension on Oct. 8.

* New manager Rick Renteria will get together with his coaches in Mesa, Ariz., this weekend to get a tour of the new facility and start preparations for Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 13.

* Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, recently completed his studies at Dartmouth and graduated with a major in economics. Hendricks was a combined 13-4 with 2.00 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

* Junior Lake is done playing in the Dominican Republic winter league, and those who saw him raved about his outfield play.

– Carrie Muskat

12/6 Winter ball update

* Luis Valbuena 2-for-4 with a walk and scored two runs in Lara’s 10-5 win over Margarita in Venezuela. Valbuena, who has been playing second base, was batting .284.

* Darnell McDonald, who recently signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs, is playing for Yaquis de Obregon in Mexico, and was 1-for-4 on Thursday in a 6-3 win over Guasave. In three games, he’s 2-for-10 with one RBI.

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