Cubs third baseman Mike Olt can see he’s on the right path
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter February 23, 2014 9:31PM
MESA, Ariz. — On a back field at the Cubs’ spring-training complex Saturday during a casual round of batting practice, Mike Olt was shagging flies — with a bat.
He gave chase to one ball slicing away from him in left field, reached out one-handed on the run and, with a lunging swing, “fouled” it over the wall. It was a clear sign that the vision problems that plagued Olt last year are gone.
“The past couple days I’ve taken live BP, and just getting in there and just picking up some things, I definitely think I’m ahead of schedule for how I usually am at this time,” Olt said. “I think that’s more of a sign.”
Either way, if the tear-duct problems that exacerbated his allergies, blurred his vision, ruined his 2013 season and made him available from the Rangers in the Matt Garza trade are gone, then the Cubs might have a real candidate for their core at third base.
“I feel like we made a lot of progress with what I need to do now,” said Olt, who has been prescribed medicated eye drops he says are working. “Now it’s just fun to get out there and not think about it anymore.”
If he’s fixed, it’s the end of more than a year of problems that he and some of his doctors believe might have started with a concussion suffered when he was beaned in winter ball in November 2012.
Ranked 22nd on Baseball America’s prospect list entering last season, the power-hitting, strong-fielding third baseman could be a player to watch this spring. He has the potential to knock the Luis Valbuena-Donnie Murphy platoon off third.
“As long as I’m healthy, I know that I can do what I was capable of,” said the former first-round draft pick who hit .288 with 28 homers and a .977 OPS in 95 games at Class AA before his call-up in 2012.
“I know that I belong. I belong in the big leagues. I’ve just got to make sure I stay healthy and make sure I’m on everything and just let my abilities take over. I’ve still got a lot of time, and I’ve still got a lot to work on. But it’s definitely more fun for me right now to know that I’m on the right path.”