Junior Lake has some Puig in him
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org
Not to compare Cubs rookie Junior Lake to the last month’s national rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, but …
“Obviously Puig did it for a month,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Dodgers’ phenom, “but there’s no question in my mind, for four days anyway, [Lake’s] been a spark that’s let to a couple wins.
“[Monday] night he took over the game and basically one the game himself.”
Lake, who debuted Friday, had his first four-hit game in Monday’s 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks, including two bunt singles, a mammoth home run to center (his career first) and a key run-scoring single to left in the ninth.
He’s the first Cub to record as many as nine hits in his first four games since Andy Pafko in 1943, and after Monday’s game Sveum said he sees Lake sticking around for a longer look than the originally planned week or so (as the Cubs await the return from the DL of David DeJesus).
In fact, he’s the leadoff man until further notice after that big performance Monday in his first game there.
“He’s our one real dynamic player that can do things out of that spot,” Sveum said. “You ride that as long as you can or see if you decide that’s where he’s going to stay period.”
Sveum said he thinks the energy Lake has brought to the team – between his hitting surge and aggressive play on the bases and in the field – is contagious.
“You saw [Starlin] Castro trying to bunt [for a hit] the other day,” he said. “I haven’t seen him try to bunt since I’ve been here.”
But more than the contagion factor, it’s the speed-power tools package to take over games like Monday that has Sveum all Puiged-up over him.
“When you get down to it, over a 162-game season, and you have those kind of impact players that can control a baseball game themselves,” he said, “you look back at a guy like that and say, `My God, that’s 14 games he took over by himself.’
“Those are the kind of players you have to have.”