Luis Valbuena, Cody Ransom have third base covered
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com May 4, 2013 9:54PM
Updated: June 6, 2013 7:22AM
Third basemen Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom , surprisingly, are among the better hot-corner duos in baseball, hitting a combined .267 (27-for-101) with eight home runs and 17 RBI.
And that’s why Ian Stewart is a minor-leaguer.
“He’s [at Class AAA Iowa] as a Triple-A player now,’’ manager Dale Sveum said of Stewart, who was activated from the disabled list Friday but optioned to Iowa. “Ransom and Valbuena are our third basemen now.’’
Sveum called the left-handed-hitting Valbuena and the right-handed-hitting Ransom ‘‘one of the best [combinations] in baseball at that position right now.’’
That may change with the Brewers’ Aramis Ramirez and the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman activated Friday from the disabled list.
Ransom, 37, a career .220 hitter through parts of 10 seasons, isn’t likely to continue at his current .350 pace since being claimed off waivers April 15 from the Padres.
But he has been the right complement to Valbuena, Sveum said.
“He’s been around a long time,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He’s always hit home runs. He’ll strike out against right-handers, but he’s always hit left-handers. He’s dependable in the field, a no-panic kind of player.’’
James Russell is the Cubs’ only left-handed reliever, but he remains the bullpen’s most effective pitcher with 16 consecutive scoreless appearances and a streak of 121/3 scoreless innings.
He has struck out 15 and walked only two. He worked the seventh inning Saturday.
“In a perfect world, you want two — one who could go a few innings and get left-handers and right-handers out,’’ Sveum said. “That would be Russell. But you don’t always live in a perfect world.’’
Pinch hitting is one of the game’s most difficult jobs, but backup catcher Dioner Navarro is excelling at it. He already has five hits in nine at-bats off the bench, with two home runs and three RBI.
His five hits are nearly half his career total of 12 as a pinch hitter.
“His personality has a lot to do with it,’’ said Sveum, who remembered his last playing season as one when he was a better pinch hitter than starter. “Sometimes it comes down to not thinking too much. [Navarro] can make adjustments. He can hit a fastball and get on top of it. But starting, [he’s] not so good [.083].’’