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Ian Stewart sure he can reignite with Cubs

NEW YORK NY - APRIL 14:  Ian Stewart #9 Colorado Rockies looks from dugout during game against New York

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Ian Stewart #9 of the Colorado Rockies looks on from the dugout during the game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 14, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Rockies defeated the Mets 6-5. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ian Stewart

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Updated: January 11, 2012 8:13AM

Forget change of scenery. Ian Stewart doesn’t buy that as an excuse or a remedy for anything.

The Cubs’ new third baseman said his poor 2011 season with the Colorado Rockies was about limited opportunity, a
series of injuries that put him behind (and in some cases lingered) and maybe even about getting a little ‘‘desperate’’ later in the season.

‘‘But,’’ Stewart said, ‘‘with this situation now with Aramis Ramirez gone and one of the guys who would have had a chance to play third going in the trade to Colorado and that spot being open, it’s a great opportunity for me to be that every-day third baseman and get those 500 to 600 at-bats that I need to be successful.’’

In a career-high 425 at-bats in 2009, Stewart hit a career-high 25 homers with 70 RBI despite a .228 average (.322 on-base). In 49 fewer at-bats the next year, he hit .256 with 18 homers, then dropped 100 points in 2011 with no homers and split time between the minors and big-league club.

In many ways, his last two seasons mirror those of one of the guys he was traded for, Tyler Colvin, who has a shorter track record and, in the Cubs’ minds, less potential for a significant bounce-back season in 2012.

Stewart, who turns 27 on Opening Day, also is said to have above-average fielding skills at a relatively hard-to-fill position, giving the Cubs what they hope will be no worse than a big-league-quality stop-gap solution while they build up the organization.

The fact the Cubs made Stewart a priority this winter, as general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday night, isn’t lost on Stewart.

‘‘It does wonders for a guy’s confidence,’’ said Stewart, who spoke to team president Theo Epstein soon after being acquired in the new regime’s first trade. ‘‘Theo Epstein, just the name, he’s one of those guys in sports everyone can recognize because of the success he brought to the Red Sox in such a short time. To hear his voice on the phone was very refreshing to me.

‘‘Just to hear a different voice saying the things he said, having confidence in me and that they want to bring me over to be the guy at third base — a guy his stature in the game in the front office — that definitely gives you confidence.’’

NOTES: The Cubs have claimed Jeff Bianchi, a 25-year-old, once-promising shortstop prospect hampered by injuries in the minors, off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.

◆ Cubs outfielder Tony Campana, who survived cancer as a young child, won the 2011 Tony Conigliaro Award, given annually to a big-league player who has overcome adversity through ‘‘spirit, determination and courage.’’

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