The Cubs need to get a better read on Junior Lake and figure out how he fits into their future. They gave him Sammy Sosa’s old No. 21 and Alfonso Soriano’s old locker in the middle of the clubhouse.
Lake made his Wrigley Field debut during Monday night’s 5-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, roaming the same left field where Soriano posted up for six-and-a-half years. After all the hype, there’s going to be a backlash and an adjustment period for someone who entered the game on an 0-for-13 skid.
Lake drew comparisons to Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig with a 15-for-30 run out of the All-Star break. Soriano said the converted infielder with power and speed reminded him of a younger version of his 40/40 self.
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Lake then saw the San Francisco Giants and their World Series rotation up close over the weekend at AT&T Park.
“We’re not going to panic over an 0-for-13,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He had to face (Tim) Lincecum, (Madison) Bumgarner and (Matt) Cain. You’re facing Cy Youngs and guys that have done a lot of good things in their careers. For a kid like him, with the ability he has, it’s the learning experience we talk about.
“That’s why you want some guys to be here a little bit earlier to get that taste and see major-league pitching on everyday basis, so they have to make those adjustments.”
Lake broke an 0-for-14 with a single off Kyle Lohse and showed his athleticism by going first-to-third when Anthony Rizzo hit a line drive back up the middle. He bunted for a base hit in the seventh inning and got thrown out trying to steal second after Rizzo struck out on a ball in the dirt.
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As Lake (.362) tries to figure it out, he will be a reason to watch this 48-56 team. The Cubs saved $6.8 million when they traded Soriano to the New York Yankees but also opened up space in their lineup. Lake was supposed to be a bridge player when he was promoted on July 19, a short-term solution given all their injured outfielders, but there are no plans to return him to Triple-A Iowa now.
“We haven’t had any talks about moving him anywhere,” Sveum said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s going to be in there pretty much every day.”