MIAMI – Intentional or not, Dale Sveum sent another message to Ian Stewart.
The Cubs manager can be brutally honest and doesn’t talk just to hear the sound of his own voice. When asked if Stewart, once healthy, would leave Triple-A Iowa and become the everyday third baseman, Sveum got right to the point.
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“He’s got to earn it,” Sveum said. “He’s got to go down there and play well. He’s not swinging the bat very well at all.”
If the Cubs wanted to send another reminder, Luis Valbuena hammered a fastball from Miami closer Steve Cishek into the right-field bullpen late Thursday night, the pivot point in a 4-3 victory at Marlins Park.
Valbuena raised his right arm as he rounded first base and watched the ball disappear. That go-ahead home run in the ninth inning highlighted why the manager trusts him so much.
“I’m ready every day, wherever (Sveum) wants me to play,” Valbuena said afterward. “I’m ready every time.”
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Stewart has gone 2-for-24 (.083) with 10 strikeouts through his first seven games at Iowa. He strained a quadriceps muscle during an intrasquad scrimmage more than two months ago in Arizona.
The Cubs haven’t gotten a long look at Stewart – who last July underwent season-ending surgery on his left wrist – while third baseman Valbuena (.237 average, four homers, plus defense) has emerged as one of Sveum’s favorites.
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“Valbuena’s one of our most consistent players right now,” Sveum said. “It’s going to be very difficult to move one of our more consistent players out of a spot.”
Sveum had already said that there’s no real urgency to call up Stewart, making it a real possibility that he will be a $2 million backup. Check back later.
“We’ll see what we have,” Sveum said. “We’ll probably know more about that in about a week or 10 days.”