Manager Rick Renteria continues Cubs’ lineup shuffle night after 17-5 rout
BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter May 13, 2014 11:35PM
Chicago Cubs' Mike Olt, right, is congratualed by third base coach Gary Jones (1) after his three-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning in a baseball game, Monday, May 12, 2014, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
Updated: May 14, 2014 12:30AM
ST. LOUIS — The Cubs’ historic offensive night in Game 1 of a four-game series Monday was a blast, but it came and went without having an immediate impact on settling one of the most up-in-the-air lineups in baseball.
Not even 20 hits and 17 runs — the Cubs’ most in five seasons and their most against the St. Louis Cardinals in 40 years — kept manager Rick Renteria from tinkering with his lineup for Game 2 on Tuesday against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
‘‘I think we’re still mixing and matching [and will] probably continue to do so until we, in general, just draw a conclusion as to where we see they’re all at,’’ Renteria said before the Cubs lost 4-3 in 12 innings when reliever Justin Grimm hit Cardinals pinch hitter Greg Garcia with a pitch with the bases loaded.
Now 38 games into the season, Renteria has hit the reset button on a lineup only once. The switch Tuesday was sitting third baseman Mike Olt in favor of Luis Valbuena.
‘‘I think the way we’ve balanced it out, everybody’s getting at-bats, everybody’s playing,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘So I think it’s advantageous to us to keep them all getting into the lineup at some point and letting them play, letting them do what they need to do. Besides the practice, they need to play in games in order to put those things into play.’’
Shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are the only Cubs position players who have started every game. Versatile Emilio Bonifacio, the only Cubs player batting higher than .300, is second on the team in at-bats and has played his way into an every-day role.
Welington Castillo has been close to a mainstay at catcher, starting 30 games. Beyond that, the closest thing the Cubs have to a fixture in the field is outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who has started 29 times. Next are Valbuena (24), outfielder Junior Lake (23), Olt (21) and infielder Darwin Barney (19).
It’s a bit of a mixed bag, for sure.
‘‘We’re still trying to give them the best look at the guys I think we can match them up against,’’ Renteria said.
Against Wainwright, it meant sitting down Olt, who leads all
National League rookies in home runs (eight) and RBI (19). In the Cubs’ victory Monday, Olt homered for the fourth time on the road trip.
The decision might have been unpopular among some Cubs fans. But Valbuena, who entered the game with a .357 career average against Wainwright, made Renteria look good when he belted a two-run homer to right in the third inning to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
Renteria had the option of keeping Olt at third and playing Valbuena at second. Instead, he went with Barney, who has enjoyed
decent success against Wainwright, at second.
When you don’t have a roster of established stars, you frankly have a whole lot of options. Not all of them are good, but there’s only one way to find out.
‘‘As we continue to move forward and these guys continue to develop into who they are as players, their spots in the lineup will continue to increase and their performances hopefully will reflect the production is very, very good,’’ Renteria said.