Mike Olt looking to stay healthy, win starting 3B job
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter March 19, 2014 10:32PM
- Javy Baez blasts 452-foot HR, his 5th of spring
- Competition brings out best in Carlos Villanueva; Cubs lose 9-6
Updated: March 21, 2014 8:59PM
MESA, Ariz. — After he makes his much-anticipated spring debut at third base Thursday, Mike Olt won’t play there Friday. The Cubs are easing his stiff right shoulder back into action.
Until he can play every day, he won’t be an every-day player.
But he has time. Enough, perhaps, to win the starting third-base job by Opening Day.
“I think he’s gotta be able to be healthy,” manager Rick Renteria said.
“I need to see him out there first. We all need to see him out there.
“And he needs to feel comfortable.”
Olt said his shoulder, which has kept him from playing third all spring, was the “best it’s felt” Wednesday.
But is there time to win the job?
“I don’t know,” Olt said. “It’s going to be up to them. I’m just looking to get out there.
“It’s going to take a little bit to get used to.
“It’s not always like riding a bike.”
Grounders have felt “slowed down” on the back fields, he said, but there are “little things that you just forget” when you haven’t played a position for a while.
Cubs fans would certainly find the 25-year-old Olt — Baseball America’s No. 22 prospect in 2012 who was acquired in the Matt Garza deal last year — more palatable than the projected platoon of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
Olt’s four home runs entering Wednesday were tied for second-most in the Cactus League. His nine RBI led the Cubs.
“As I grew up and kinda watched the game and talked to the older players, I’m making adjustments a lot quicker,” said Olt, who recovered from concussion-related vision issues last year to have the best spring of his career. “That’s going to be the biggest change in my game.
“Every day you’re going to have to make adjustments.
“I can make them midgame and not wait a week to make all the adjustments.”
Cubs management hasn’t put pressure on him by saying a job is at stake, Olt said.
“He’s obviously swinging the bat really well this spring, and I know he’s played third base well in the past,” Renteria said. “So again, it gets back to the same thing: I need to see him healthy first.
“He hasn’t been over there all spring. We got two weeks left.”
It’s 11 days. And counting.