MESA, Ariz. — If not for that one freak accident, Mike Olt probably wouldn’t be standing here in front of his locker at Cubs Park.
The Texas Rangers sent their 2012 minor league player of the year to winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he got drilled by a pitch, leading to the concussion symptoms and vision problems that ruined his 2013 season. Otherwise, Cubs executives insist Olt would have been “untouchable” in last summer’s Matt Garza deal with Texas.
“If I am healthy, I do know I belong in the big leagues,” Olt said. “It’s not a matter of thinking about making the (team). It’s about just going out there and doing my thing and whatever happens, happens. When I do get the shot, I’ll be ready.”
Olt says those issues are in the past. He did have his sore right shoulder wrapped on Sunday morning, treating a “dead arm” he said he’s dealt with before in spring training. He said he’s played through this and it’s gotten much better within the last 10 days.
“I’m ready to go,” Olt said.
The Cubs haven’t allowed Olt to show off his plus defense at third base yet, limiting him to designated hitter. But he will play first base in Monday’s B game against the San Francisco Giants at Cubs Park.
“I know he’s anxious to get out there,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We’re feeling the same thing he is.”
Olt is only 25 years old and would appear to have more potential upside than a Luis Valbuena/Donnie Murphy platoon at third base.
Olt hit 13 home runs in the 2011 Arizona Fall League and put up 28 homers and 82 RBI in 95 games at Double-A Frisco in 2012. He wasn’t the same player last season, hitting .168 in 39 games at Triple-A Iowa after the Garza trade.
“He’s an individual that came in with the opportunity to show everybody what he’s got coming off the layoff,” Renteria said. “You never know. It’s like anything — we’re just trying to get him healthy and comfortable and see how it falls into place and let time tell us through the spring what’s going to happen.”
Baseball America had rated Olt as the third-best overall college defender in 2011, when the Rangers drafted him in the supplemental round (No. 49) out of the University of Connecticut.
“I’m not a huge fan of sitting on the bench and hitting,” Olt said. “It will be good to be back on the field and feel like a part of the game.”