PHOENIX – It’s not quite now or never for Junior Lake and Mike Olt, because they’re both still young and talented. Experience might help fix some of their problems. But it also looks like their window of opportunity with the Cubs could be closing.
Manager Rick Renteria again deflected questions about sending Lake and/or Olt down to Triple-A Iowa to get more at-bats and rebuild their confidence. That would also be a way to keep Arismendy Alcantara on the roster beyond this weekend.
“I don’t want to speculate on any of that,” Renteria said before Saturday’s 9-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Lake showed off his speed in the fourth inning by hitting a triple down the left-field line and scoring when Olt lifted a sacrifice fly into right. While it’s been hard for either player to get into a rhythm, neither one has grabbed an everyday job by the throat.
Lake’s hitting .219 and hasn’t homered since June 17, showing his frustration by breaking at least three bats over his leg this season. Olt’s put up some crazy numbers, hitting .142 with 10 singles, 12 homers and 81 strikeouts in 183 at-bats.
“One of the things that I try to talk to them about is not to focus too much on the results,” Renteria said. “I want them to focus on the at-bats. It’s one of the toughest gigs they have as young men (in) the big leagues – to come off the bench, play every three or four or five or six days…and still try and develop.
“The biggest thing we try to do is balance their emotional state.”
Lake gave the team a jolt of energy after last year’s All-Star break. When Alfonso Soriano got traded to the New York Yankees, he told reporters inside Chase Field’s visiting clubhouse that he saw Lake as a worthy replacement in left field, another converted infielder with 40/40 potential.
But the Cubs have a wave of position players pushing through the system. Alcantara is already taking playing time in center field. Kris Bryant, ESPN’s No. 1 midseason prospect, is playing third base at Iowa, though he could eventually move to the outfield. A surplus of up-the-middle players will give the Cubs options, and Olt hasn’t established himself as a big-league third baseman yet.
“I don’t think they’re thinking about who’s coming or how those guys effect them,” Renteria said. “What they worry about is trying to make sure that any opportunity they get, they do the best that they possibly can. And as an evaluator, I’ve got to sit back and also take into account: They’ve haven’t played in a week.
“So when things don’t go well, trust me, it’s not one of those things where I just discount players. I don’t do that. I think how they prepare, how they work, all the things that they do prior to their starts.
“Ultimately, I know, we want the numbers to show that they’re performing and doing well. But I think right now they’re still – believe it or not – in a good place emotionally and that’s the most important thing I can key on.”