Cubs 3B Mike Olt answering fielding questions
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter March 26, 2014 11:08PM
Updated: April 28, 2014 10:43AM
MESA, Ariz. — Third baseman Mike Olt got one step closer to a big-league starting job Wednesday, but the Cubs still won’t say whether they’re convinced his rehabbed throwing shoulder is ready yet.
When Donnie Murphy was claimed on waivers by the Texas Rangers Wednesday, it eliminated half the third-base platoon that was projected to man the position when camp opened.
“We obviously still have that third-base slot playing itself out,” manager Rick Renteria said in his most specific comment on the subject following the Murphy move.
Olt, who made two strong throws on Tuesday, made another sure throw Wednesday against Arizona on his only play in the field.
“It’s not going to be my decision,” he said. “We have a lot of good players that can play there. I’m just making sure that I’m going to be as ready as I can so when I do get an opportunity, I’m able to get in there and excel as well.”
Among non-pitchers, the Cubs have two roster spots left for Olt, infielder Ryan Roberts (who has played most of his big-league games at third) and outfielders Ryan Kalish and Chris Coghlan.
Some insiders suggest Roberts has an inside track for one of the spots, and team officials have liked Kalish all spring.
As for Olt, if he’s healthy enough to handle the fielding, he already has staff and teammates alike convinced his bat would be a major asset to the lineup, likely in the cleanup spot behind Anthony Rizzo.
“He’s a relatively new guy,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “We really didn’t know what to expect. The way he’s been hitting hasn’t been a fluke. You watch him hit, he looks comfortable, he looks confident, and he swings hard.
“That’s what we need. We need guys like that, guys that are coming in and know they’re going to hit. Not hoping they’re going to hit. Know they’re going to hit. He’s definitely one of those guys.”
Murphy, who was projected to share the Cubs’ third-base job with Luis Valbuena, helps alleviate the Rangers’ middle-infield need after second baseman Jurickson Profar was lost for as much as half the season with a shoulder injury.
Between Murphy’s departure and the release Wednesday of catcher George Kottaras, the Cubs recouped roughly $1.63 million, not counting the salaries of their replacements. The major-league minimum salary this year is $500,000.