Cubs prospect Jorge Soler determined to live up to the hype
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org February 21, 2013 11:12PM
Jorge Soler hits a home run his first time up during The Chicago Cubs intersquad game at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, AZ on Thursday, February 21, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 23, 2013 6:36AM
MESA, Ariz. — Cubs outfield prospect Jorge Soler can be excused if he hasn’t heard of Corey Patterson. After all, he was 8 when Patterson debuted in the big leagues in 2000.
And he just had turned 15 when Felix Pie debuted for the Cubs in 2007.
But for everything Soler doesn’t seem to know about the Cubs’ tragicomic history of next-big-thing prospects, he knows this much:
‘‘I want to do everything on the field to do better for the Chicago Cubs,’’ Soler said Thursday through coach/translator Franklin Font.
Better than the all-hype prospects Patterson, Pie and Brooks Kieschnick before them turned out to be.
‘‘Yeah,’’ Font said. ‘‘He doesn’t say that, but he wants to be different. He wants to make a mark for Chicago.’’
If Soler didn’t say it in so many words, he made it clear in an intrasquad game. He hit a home run against prospect Nick Struck in his first at-bat, then drew an eight-pitch walk from prospect Robert Whitenack in his other trip to the plate.
‘‘That’s some pretty nice bat speed you saw,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘That was some good at-bats. That’s what we talk about all the time here. That’s the kind of stuff that’s on the radar now.
‘‘The guy following him up had some pretty good bat speed going through the strike zone, too.’’
That was 2011 first-round pick Javy Baez, who went hitless in two at-bats despite the bat speed.
‘‘As well as [infield prospect Junior] Lake,’’ Sveum said of a player who tripled off the center-field wall and lined out. ‘‘There’s some guys that are on that radar right now that could possibly be impact players someday.’’
All anybody seems to want to know these days is when — and, apparently, not if — it’ll happen in the majors.
Could these guys start joining Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney in the next year? Two?
And does Soler even know how much Cubs fans are anticipating that day?
‘‘Si,’’ he said.
Stewart, Vitters hurt
Third baseman Ian Stewart, who pronounced his surgically repaired left wrist at full strength, now is dealing with what Sveum called a ‘‘mild, slight, very little’’ strain in his left quadriceps. He left the intrasquad game after lining a double in his only at-bat.
Meanwhile, prospect Josh Vitters was scratched from the intrasquad game Friday because of his strained left quadriceps.
‘‘It’s an epidemic,’’ Sveum joked.
Right-hander Matt Garza said his injured left lat already is feeling better, and he’s confident he can be fully recovered to open the season on time.
‘‘Right now, if I stay on my pace and stay patient and just let it heal, I’ll be fine,’’ said Garza, who suffered the injury while throwing batting practice Sunday. ‘‘I’ll be ready.’’
Garza isn’t expected to start throwing in practice again until next week as he gets treatment and rests the injury. That assures he’ll miss at least one scheduled spring start.
And the Cactus League delay shouldn’t prevent him from being ready on time to be in the Opening Day mix, he said, and it might even be a positive considering he was already ahead of schedule with his throwing program after a winter of recuperation and strength-building following last year’s elbow injury.
‘‘Maybe I came out too strong, too fast, and this is just kind of a way to slow down,’’ he said. ‘‘So it is what it is, and now just kind of get back to work.’’