Cubs bench a mix of veterans, versatility
How do you like your team's bench? Young? Old? Speedy? Full of power hitters?
If history provides any indication, it tells us Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and his field bosses have liked veteran bench players.
The thinking, and it's pretty much conventional around major-league baseball, is that veteran players can handle the pressure of coming off the bench cold and pinch hitting. And they understand the preparation it takes to succeed in that role.
The 2003 division winners for the Cubs featured all-time pinch-hits leader Lenny Harris, who went on to get a World Series ring later that year with the Florida Marlins. That club also had Troy O'Leary, Tom Goodwin, Tony Womack and Randall Simon playing key sub roles.
In 2007 and 2008, veteran Daryle Ward was a main man off the bench.
This year, the bench figures to be another veteran crew. You also can throw in an additional "V" word: versatility.
Here are the issues.
Who led the team in pinch hitting last year?
Kosuke Fukudome was 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and 2 RBI as a pinch hitter. That could be important because Fukudome figures to begin many games on the bench when Tyler Colvin starts in right field.
Jeff Baker, who now is part of a platoon at second base, was 6-for-18 (.333) with a homer as a pinch hitter.
Will pitcher Carlos Zambrano pinch hit?
According to manager Mike Quade, yes. Zambrano was 0-for-7 as a pinch hitter last year.
How does the infield picture look?
This is the one area the Cubs want versatility. Hendry and Quade have said the main backup infielder must be able to play shortstop.
Veteran nonroster man Augie Ojeda fits that bill, as does youngster Darwin Barney, who also may be making a charge at the second-base job. Another vet, Bobby Scales, is back for his fourth straight Cubs camp, but he's a long shot. Scales saw big-league time in 2009 and last year.
What about the outfield?
The Cubs already have four "starting" outfielders with Colvin and Fukudome in right, Marlon Byrd in center and Alfonso Soriano in left.
That leaves one job open. Fighting for it are nonroster man Reed Johnson and along with Fernando Perez, obtained from Tampa Bay in the Matt Garza deal. Perez is on the 40-man roster.
On Tuesday, the Cubs sent another potential candidate, Lou Montanez, to minor-league camp. He's expected to open the season at Class AAA Iowa. The Cubs took Montanez with their first-round pick in 2000. He didn't pan out and finally hit the big time with Baltimore before coming back this winter.
The Cubs are intrigued by Perez's speed, but he needs to get on base to use that speed. Johnson played for the Cubs in 2008 and 2009.
Quade will want to get days off for Soriano and Byrd, so the ability to play center field would seem a prerequisite. Johnson, Montanez and Perez all can play center.