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posted: 3/15/2013 7:47 PM

Unraveling Cubs logjam at 3B no easy task

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  • Chicago Cubs' Welington Castillo, center, is greeted at home plate by Javier Baez (70) and Luis Valbuena, right, after his two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game, Monday, March 11, 2013, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

      Chicago Cubs' Welington Castillo, center, is greeted at home plate by Javier Baez (70) and Luis Valbuena, right, after his two-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game, Monday, March 11, 2013, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cubs' third-base picture still is a fuzzy one, even if they're starting to get some bodies back.

Luis Valbuena started Friday's 15-3 loss to the White Sox, and he may be the fallback guy at third to start the season, simply because time is running out.

Both Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters resumed game action Thursday as they recover from left-quad injuries suffered on Feb. 21.

Vitters went 0-for-2 against the Dodgers while Stewart said he led off every inning he played for both teams in a minor-league game and went, by his count, 2-for-5 with a homer. Stewart did not play Friday while Vitters played against Team Japan in Mesa.

Vitters is ticketed for Class AAA Iowa to get some more minor-league at-bats while Stewart will try to cram in as many minor-league and major-league at-bats over the final two weeks of spring training.

That may or may not be enough.

"I don't think we're taking anybody who's not going to be 100 percent," manager Dale Sveum said before the game against the White Sox. "If stuff happens real early in the season, we've got a lot of issues that come into play, with roster spots and all that. Whatever happens, we're going to make sure he's ready to play and play every day."

Stewart underwent surgery on his left wrist last summer and came to spring training seemingly healthy, before the leg injury happened.

The Cubs are still hoping to get something out of Stewart, whom they got from the Rockies in December 2011 for young players Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu. Stewart sounded confident he could be the player the Cubs thought they were getting: a solid fielder who can hit with power.

"I still think I will be, and I think it will be this year," he said. "It's just been such a relief for me knowing that the surgery I got for it and I have no lingering issues in my wrist, and my bad speed is back. The tough part for me last year was that I could hit BP all day because they were throwing it down the middle, and you can kind of control everything.

"Once the games came and pitches were moving and breaking, I just couldn't adjust because the wrist was holding me back. Now, there is none of that. My confidence is really sky high right now as far as my hitting and everything goes. I was really surprised how I was able to feel yesterday and tracking pitches and swings I put on the baseball. It's tough to do. I hadn't even had any live BP or (a simulated game)."

Sveum said the Cubs are targeting Sunday for more at-bats for Stewart, and that could come in another minor-league setting.

Stewart said he felt there is sufficient time for him to be ready for the April 1 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.

"I feel like there is," he said. "I was just counting the days, 17 days, 16 days for Opening Day. Typically, that's not what you want.

"I think you can make the most of it by going down to minor-league games and getting at-bats. It helps to actually see live pitching, get to see some break on some balls and some spin and some speed of the pitches, as well."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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