December 19, 2014
PHOENIX — Arismendy Alcantara might not have looked the part Saturday, but the touted prospect is a player the Cubs want to find a way to keep on the roster when they make a series of moves in the next few days to add pitchers from Class AAA Iowa.
Could that mean outfielder Junior Lake and third baseman Mike Olt are on the clock for possible demotions to keep Alcantara in the major leagues?
For the first time, manager Rick Renteria didn’t act as though it was ridiculous to suggest the .219-hitting Lake, who has struck out 93 times and has only 57 hits, might be sent down. Or even Olt, who is batting .142 with 26 hits (12 home runs) and 81 strikeouts.
‘‘I don’t want to speculate on any of that,’’ Renteria said before two combined to go 1-for-6 with two strikeouts in a 9-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Cubs will have to lose at least one position player if Renteria gets his wish to keep his bullpen at the eight pitchers it has been at for much of the season.
Alcantara was hitting .346 and had a 1.033 OPS in his first six big-league games before going hitless and committing an error in center field in his seventh game.
He has brought energy, speed, power, versatility (starting at second and in center) and an eye at the plate that turned an 0-2 count Friday into a walk. That resulted in a run when Anthony Rizzo followed with a homer.
‘‘[Alcantara] has been doing very, very well,” Renteria said.
Lake and Olt have struggled for most of the season and have played sparingly recently. Renteria has started them almost exclusively against left-handers.
‘‘They’ve been working hard. They stay positive, and they’ve been handling it extremely well,’’ Renteria said, acknowledging the difficulty — especially for young players — to perform well when not playing regularly. ‘‘One of the things I try to talk to them about is not to focus so much on the results. I want them to focus on the at-bat.’’
Maybe it’s about trying to live up to an All-Star season filled with quality starts in 2013. Maybe it’s about trying to make up for the trade departures of right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. But left-hander Travis Wood definitely looks like a changed man these days — for all the wrong reasons.
Four more walks and a lot of Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero sent Wood (7-9) to his ninth loss and 11th non-quality start in 20 outings this season.
Wood led the Cubs and was among the National League leaders with 24 quality starts last season. He already has issued 52 walks after allowing 66 in 32 starts last season.
Wood admitted he might be pressing since the trades of Samardzija and Hammel on July 4.
‘‘For me, especially once we lost Hammel and Jeff, that’s a big gap to fill in the rotation,’’ he said. ‘‘For sure, I really want to go out there and give you seven or eight innings to help fill that void. And so far it’s not happening. But I promise you we’ll get there.’’