Results tagged ‘ Mike Olt ’

4/10 Lineup shift

Rick Renteria abandoned his left-right platoon and started right-handed hitters Mike Olt and Junior Lake against Pirates righty Gerrit Cole on Thursday. Part of the reason is the splits against Cole are almost identical. Left-handed hitters have hit .252 against Cole, while right-handers have hit .250.

“These are two young players who we’re going to try to get them as much playing time as we can,” Renteria said of Olt and Lake. “We’re trying to find spots that can give them an opportunity to gain some confidence.

“Everybody on the squad, everybody, from [Darwin] Barney to [Ryan Sweeney] to [Nate] Schierholtz, every one of those guys has been working real hard and they all want to be in the lineup,” Renteria said. “We’re just trying to balance it all out and give us the best chance on a daily basis.”

Sweeney and Schierholtz have started against right-handed pitchers this year, but they are batting .174 and .118 respectively. Lake was hitting .273 while Olt has two home runs and was batting .158.

The Cubs have scored 21 runs in their last three games after scoring eight runs in the first five games. What gives?

“Their approaches are solid and they’re getting good pitches to hit,” Renteria said. “They’re feeling a little confident now, which is good.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/10 Cubs lineup

Mike Olt will start against right-hander Gerritt Cole on Thursday in the series finale between the Cubs and Pirates at Wrigley Field. Travis Wood gets the start, and needs to do better against left-handed hitters. In his first start against the Phillies, lefties were 5-for-17 against him, while right-handers were 1-for-9. Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio 2B
Kalish LF
Rizzo 1B
Schierholtz RF
Lake CF
Castro SS
Olt 3B
Castillo C
Wood P

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

3/27 Cubs lineup

Travis Wood gets the start Thursday in the Cubs’ last Cactus League game at Cubs Park in Mesa. They’ll close against their crosstown rivals, the White Sox. Mike Olt will be the designated hitter. Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio SS
Kalish RF
Rizzo 1B
Olt DH
Sweeney CF
Castillo C
Ruggiano LF
Valabuena 3B
Barney 2B

T. Wood P

3/23 Cubs lineup

Mike Olt is scheduled to play his second straight game at third base on Sunday when the Cubs travel to Phoenix to play the Athletics. The Cubs could keep Olt on the 25-man roster if they feel he’s healthy. He’s been bothered by soreness in his right shoulder. Jason Hammel will get the start. Also on tap Sunday, Starlin Csatro will get more at-bats in the Minor League camp.

Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio CF
Lake LF
Valbuena 2B
Olt 3B
Kalish RF
Roberts 1B
Kottaras C
Barney SS
Coghlan DH

Hammel P

3/22 Cubs lineup vs. Reds

Edwin Jackson gets the start on Saturday when the Cubs play host to the Reds at Cubs Park in Mesa. Mike Olt, trying to lock up a spot on the Opening Day roster, will make his second start at third base. Luis Valbuena showed his power on Friday, hitting two home runs in a 7-0 win over the White Sox. We’ll get an update on Javier Baez, who bruised his right heel running to first base on Friday in Glendale. Also, Starlin Castro may get some at-bats in the Cubs’ Minor League games in Mesa. The Triple-A and Double-A teams are facing the Giants squads on Saturday.

The Cubs-Reds game will be on WGN-TV and WGN Radio. Here’s the lineup:

Barney 2B
Ruggiano LF
Rizzo 1B
Olt 3B
Schierholtz RF
Castillo C
Sweeney CF
Murphy SS
E. Jackson P

* If you’re coming to Saturday’s game, please take a moment to check out the Cubs Wives mystery baseball fundraiser in the left field corner, located inside the ballpark. For $30, fans can purchase an autographed baseball. You also can check out some game-used items to purchase. Proceeds go to Paz de Cristo in Mesa.

3/20 Mariners 3, Cubs 0

Jeff Samardzija continued his tune-up for Opening Day. He struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings Thursday in the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the Mariners. The right-hander felt much better than he did in his previous outing when he was charged with four runs on seven hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings. He made a few changes in his mechanics after a side session or two with pitching coach Chris Bosio.

“The more I pitch, the more I realize it’s little things,” Samardzija said. “You start overhauling stuff too much, you’ll find yourself constantly changing. Sometimes it just clicks, a lot of times it has to do with conditioning and your arm and when your arm strength comes around, you’re able to do more things than what you could do before. I thought we did a couple more things that kept me from flying open and kept me closed and kept the ball on the plate more.”

Samardzija got some help from left fielder Junior Lake, who robbed Logan Morrison of a home run with a perfectly timed leaping catch at the wall with one on in the sixth. Samardzija was then pulled. He’ll have one more Cactus League start before the regular season begins.

“We’re ready to get going,” Samardzija said. “Let’s finish these last few games up strong and keep everyone healthy and get this show on the road.”

* Mike Olt, slowed by a tender right shoulder this spring, made his first start at third for the Cubs and played seven innings. He did not appear to have any problems in the field.

“It felt great to be out there, I felt like I was part of the game,” Olt said. “I was a little rusty but I’m glad I wa able to get out there and really test it out.”

He would’ve liked to field a couple more ground balls but the Mariners somehow waited until he was out of the game. Backup Jonathan Mota handled back to back plays at third to open the Seattle eighth.

“That’s how it always works,” Olt said. “The ball will find you when you get in there.”

* Thursday’s game was played in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 15,243 at Cubs Park. The Cubs, who are averaging 13,909 in 11 dates at their new Spring Training ballpark, had set the previous attendance high of 15,191 on March 14 against the Dodgers. Thursday was the second crowd to top 15,000 at Cubs Park.

* On deck: Chris Rusin, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, will start Friday when the Cubs travel to Glendale to face the White Sox. Rusin looked sharp in his last outing against the Mets, giving up one hit over four innings and striking out two. Javier Baez, who shares the Cactus League lead in home runs with five, will start at shortstop, with Anthony Rizzo at first. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

3/20 Cubs lineup

Mike Olt makes his first start at third base on Thursday when the Cubs play host to the Mariners at Cubs Park in Mesa. Jeff Samardzija gets the start in his tune up for Opening Day. You can listen to a broadcast on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup:

Lake LF
Barney 2B
Schierholtz RF
Olt 3B
Sweeney CF
Castillo C
Murphy SS
Roberts 1B
Samardzija P

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

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