Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Posted: 2:54 p.m. Updated 6:19 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
MESA, Ariz. The Cubs dont know where this is going, which is the entire point. Carlos Pena is working on a one-year deal and there is no first baseman of the future pushing them from the minors.
Tyler Colvin is athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. He is a left-handed power bat and a former first-round pick. The Cubs need to know whether or not he can play first, as an insurance policy against Pena getting injured and for planning purposes as they build the roster for years to come.
On balance it will probably be good for Colvins long-term career prospects. But manager Mike Quade cant help but see him misplay a few balls in the outfield and wonder if hes distracted.
I cant watch and (not think) maybe thats causing some of the problems, Quade said Wednesday. But Im not deterred. Its a challenge that Im sure hes up to.
Were going to continue looking at first and just ask him to make sure that hes getting all the work he can in the outfield. (Hell) learn to have his mind in the spot that hes at. You just dont know when youre asking somebody to do this.
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The day before Colvin misjudged a ball in left and watched it bounce in front of him. He committed two errors in right during the first Cactus League game.
The weird part is Colvin got good reviews last week at first base, the first time hes played that position in a game since he was a sophomore at Clemson University.
It was fun over there, Colvin said afterward. It was a little nerve-wracking for that first groundball, but after that youre just ready to play your game and compete. (Its just) trying to get in the flow.
To his credit, Colvin, 25, handled everything smoothly as a rookie last season. He made enough adjustments at the plate to hit 20 homers in only 358 at-bats. He found a routine despite inconsistent playing time. He dealt with the media attention and survived a broken bat and a collapsed lung.
There are many reasons why the Cubs are confident Colvin can make it through this transition.
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Its learning to divide your time, and to focus wherever you end up in the lineup or on the field every day, Quade said. Its something that I think hes more than capable of dealing with and he told me: Im frustrated.
Through time I think everything will settle in and hell be the outfielder we know that he (can be). Hopefully (hell) develop into a decent enough first baseman that we can use him if we need to.
Quade wasnt singling out Colvin either, especially on a team that committed 14 errors through the first four Cactus League games.
Second baseman Blake DeWitt and shortstop Starlin Castro were out early Wednesday morning at HoHoKam Park working on turning the double play. DeWitt used to play third base regularly with the Dodgers. The Cubs have abandoned that and expect him to compete with Jeff Baker for at-bats. DeWitt needs to improve his timing and footwork.
There are some guys who are just naturally gifted defensive players, Quade said. And then there are some guys (where) its going to be a priority for them to work on (and) even maintain their defense their entire career.
Cubs cautious with Grabow
Left-handed reliever John Grabow hasnt appeared in a Cactus League game since the Feb. 27 opener. Though Grabow was shut down because of knee issues last summer, the Cubs are now monitoring tightness in his shoulder. Hes scheduled to throw another side session on Friday.
Its nothing serious. Were just being careful with him, Quade said. You worry about his knee, (but) every so often people coming back from that try to compensate a little bit or maybe change their mechanics. (Its) better safe than sorry early on to get him as strong as we can.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.