MESA, Ariz. — Cubs fans tired of hearing about the future could see a 25-and-under infield at some point this summer: Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and Mike Olt.
That optimistic scenario doesn’t even include a Gold Glove second baseman (Darwin Barney), last year’s No. 2 overall pick (Kris Bryant) and Baseball America’s No. 100 prospect in the game (Arismendy Alcantara).
So much can change between here and Wrigley Field, but Olt passed another eye test in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 6-4 win over the Oakland A’s. In case you were wondering how he’s seeing the ball, he crushed one down the left-field line for a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Oakland’s Michael Ynoa in front of 10,049 at Cubs Park.
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“It’s not even getting hits that gives me confidence,” Olt said. “It’s being there and seeing the ball well. That’s my main goal in spring training. Obviously, you want hits and you want to perform. But the main goal of spring training is to get there and get comfortable. It’s definitely a noticeable difference, just the way I feel now. That’s what I’m happy about.”
The Cubs acquired Olt in last summer’s Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers. They bought low on the 2012 Texas minor league player of the year, who had gotten hit by a pitch during winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
At this time last year, Olt didn’t have a handle on the vision problems and concussion symptoms that came from that freak accident.
“I usually start off a little slow – I just thought it was that,” Olt said. “I really didn’t start putting it together until I was probably 0-for-40 with 35 Ks. That’s kind of when I started to put it together a little bit.”
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Olt laughed and said: “I did notice at the end of spring training – and when the season started and got the adrenaline going – it was still acting up. That’s when I really started to notice it.”
Olt hit .201 with 15 homers, 42 RBI and 132 strikeouts in 107 games for three different minor-league teams last season. He had been a monster for Double-A Frisco in 2012, putting up 28 homers, 82 RBI and a .977 OPS in 95 games, making his big-league debut that August.
Olt has been dealing with what he called a “dead arm,” limiting his time to first base and designated hitter. If the other health issues are over, when will you be able to play third base?
“It’s actually coming along,” Olt said. “We’re kind of taking it slow. We don’t want any setbacks. That’s the good thing – I’ve made a lot of progress the last two, three weeks (and) as long as there’s no setbacks, hopefully soon.”