MESA, Ariz. — Reed Johnson was wearing an elbow guard Tuesday as he stepped to the plate for live batting practice against Carlos Marmol.
On Sunday, Johnson took a pitch on the elbow from the hard-throwing Marmol.
Johnson is in camp as a nonroster player, and he’ll need all the time he can get to impress manager Mike Quade and Cubs brass. The onetime Cub is battling newcomer Fernando Perez and Brad Snyder for one of the backup outfield spots.
In the infield, Augie Ojeda (another ex-Cub) is in the mix for a backup spot along with Darwin Barney, who showed well late last season.
“Sometimes that works itself out, and sometimes it doesn’t, and it becomes a brutally tough decision,” Quade said after workouts in bright sunshine Tuesday. “I’m glad guys can play, compete, and we can see. A lot of the people involved in this, you’d like to see play.”
Johnson played for the Cubs in 2008 and 2009. The right-handed hitter had a line of .262/291/.366 in 102 games for the Dodgers last year. Perez came to the Cubs from Tampa Bay in the Matt Garza trade. He has taken up switch hitting again, and that could give him an edge, along with his speed. He spent last year at Class AAA Durham, with a line of .223/.280/.299.
“There’s a lot of real good stuff that comes with Reed,” Quade said, citing Johnson’s clubhouse presence. “That’s why he’s here.”
The backup infielder, Quade said, must be able to play shortstop to give Starlin Castro a breather. Both Ojeda and Barney fit that bill.
“I love the possibility of upsets and of guys like (Tyler) Colvin coming to camp last year,” Quade said, referring to Colvin making the team as a rookie after a hot spring.
Mike Quade said he “dying to see” Fernando Perez play. Perez may be the fastest runner on the Cubs, grading out at the top of the charts, according to Quade.
However, that speed must get on base. Perez had a line of .223/.280/.299 in the minor leagues last year. He has a career on-base percentage of .301 in 94 major-league at-bats.
The Cubs have not had much team speed in recent years.
“It’s incredible,” Quade said of Perez’s speed. “Obviously, if you can have quality at-bats left-handed with that extra step, but more importantly, get on base — left-handed, right-handed switch hitting, I don’t really care. It’s important for him to try and be sure he’s getting himself on base whatever side of the plate he hits.”
Several Cubs, including Mike Quade, donned combat boots for Tuesday’s photo day at Fitch Park. Quade wore his throughout the workout.
He said the boots were in honor of U.S. military troops and in tribute of a Navy SEALS unit in Afghanistan, depicted in the book “Lone Survivor.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.