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updated: 4/5/2014 4:41 PM

Who is this Bonifacio? Just a new guy who's already made history

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  • Not only is the Cubs' Emilio Bonifacio hitting up a storm, he is playing some impressive defense. Here he grabs a drive in center field off the bat of the Phillies' Ryan Howard in the seventh inning Friday at Wrigley Field.

      Not only is the Cubs' Emilio Bonifacio hitting up a storm, he is playing some impressive defense. Here he grabs a drive in center field off the bat of the Phillies' Ryan Howard in the seventh inning Friday at Wrigley Field.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

The go-to guy for the media in the Cubs clubhouse before Friday's Wrigley Field opener wasn't Starlin Castro or Anthony Rizzo.

It was Emilio Bonifacio.

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Who would have thought?

The Cubs didn't even sign Bonifacio until Feb. 15, and that was on a minor-league contract with an invitation to big-league spring training.

Not only did Bonifacio make the team, he opened the season with 11 hits in the first three games of the season at Pittsburgh. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first player in the modern era (since 1900) to collect 11 hits in his first three games with a team.

It's hard to keep that kind of production out of the lineup, and Cubs manager Rick Renteria had Bonifacio leading off and playing center field against the Phillies.

Bonifacio went 0-for-3 in the Cubs' 7-2 loss.

"I've got a new opportunity with a club," said Bonifacio, who turns 29 on April 23.

So who is this guy? He is a 5-foot-11 switch hitter who has played all over the diamond for the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Marlins, Blue Jays and Royals.

"I think we felt he was sort of miscast in the American League," said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. "He's a really good National League player, a guy that can do a lot of different things, play positions, lead off, pinch run. You need those guys to have a good bench in the National League. For us, in places like Toronto and Kansas City, I think it's al little bit of a waste of what he can do well on a baseball field. I think he gives Rick Renteria and the coaching staff a lot of different weapons within the same player."

Bonifacio entered this year with 138 stolen bases while being caught only 36 times. Asked to tell fans what he brings, he gave a simple answer.

"Speed game," he said. "That's part of my game."

Hoyer said it is possible he could outgrow the "utility" label and see a lot of action for the Cubs.

"I would love it if he would," the GM said. "He's certainly not a young player where you think he has that kind of upside, but I think he's got coaching staff that likes him a lot. He's got a role where he can play a great deal. Sometimes those kind of players in that kind of season can outperform expectations.

"I also like the fact that he knows what his game is. You don't see a lot of flyballs out of him. You won't see him get big with his swing very often. He knows why he's on the team and what he's trying to do."

As for Bonifacio's imperfect day Friday, Renteria said: "Bonnie's human. But he's a pretty good human."

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