Cubs will have leadoff man by committee without Emilio Bonifacio
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 14, 2014 1:22AM
PHILADELPHIA — Leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio, one of the few constants the last-place Cubs have relied on this season, could be gone for a lengthy stretch after going on the disabled list Friday with a rib-cage injury.
How the Cubs will attempt to replace the guy who started in the leadoff spot in 56 of their first 64 games likely will be a game-to-game decision involving players such as Chris Coghlan and Junior Lake, manager Rick Renteria said.
But it won’t involve — for now, at least — Luis Valbuena, whose .396 on-base percentage entering the series opener Friday at Philadelphia was second on the team to No. 3 hitter Anthony Rizzo.
“Is it tempting? Yes,” Renteria said. “But I think the 3-4-5 sports for us are working pretty well. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t possibly go there somewhere down the road. But right now I think with [Starlin Castro] protecting [Rizzo], and Vally protecting Castro, it just [works].”
Bonifacio, who was signed the first week of spring training for $2.5 million after being released by the Royals, was injured leading off the game Thursday in Pittsburgh, crumpling to the ground in pain near the batter’s box after grounding to short.
Ryan Sweeney, who injured his hamstring the first week of May, returned from the DL on Friday to take Bonifacio’s place on the roster. Sweeney started in center field, batting second.
Bonifacio got off to a torrid start in April but had cooled off since (28-for-136, .206, in his last 36 games).
His versatility has allowed Renteria to play him at three infield positions and center field.
“He’s actually been everything that everybody thought he was,” Renteria said. “High energy. Obviously works as hard as he possibly can to get on base. He’s not your prototypical guy in that he does swing the bat a lot. But he’s come through a lot in that slot, driving in runs, getting on, stealing a base. It’s been good to have him there, and hopefully all this that’s going on will be a short-term situation.”