Despite regression to mean, Bonifacio still the guy for Cubs

Despite regression to mean, Bonifacio still the guy for Cubs

April 19, 2014, 2:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

Through the first week of the season, Emilio Bonifacio became one of the top storylines around Major League Baseball.

The problem is, an MLB season is 26 weeks long.

Through the Cubs' first eight games, the 28-year-old journeyman had racked up 19 hits and six multi-hit efforts, setting records in the process.

But he followed that up with a 1-for-22 stretch before tapping out an infield single to lead off Friday's game. That slump dropped his average from .500 all the way to .339 and from leading the National League in hits to sitting at 13th in the league entering play Saturday.

"He's a guy who started off extremely hot and was feeling good," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "We've had a lot of days off here early on in the season, so I don't know if there's any retrospection on him cooling off."

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Nobody expected Bonifacio to hit over .400 for a whole season; not with a career .262 batting average coming into the year.

But the Cubs like the value he provides atop the lineup and Renteria will keep trotting the versatile Bonifacio out on a regular basis.

"He's a guy that gets on base," Renteria said. "He tries to do the best he can from both sides of the plate. He's a sparkplug and I think we'll continue to throw him out there and give him opportunities to show what he's capable of doing."

Bonifacio has appeared as the Cubs' leadoff hitter in every game but one to start the season. His ability to play all over the diamond and produce from both sides of the plate works to his advantage.

He is tearing it up vs. lefties, hitting .500 (8-for-16) entering play Saturday before singles in his first two at-bats Saturday off Reds southpaw Tony Cingrani boosted that average.

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Bonifacio's speed - he has seven stolen bases in eight tries - is another mark in his favor, and Renteria was quick to draw comparisons when asked about Reds speedster Billy Hamilton before the weekend series at Wrigley.

"Those guys ... when they get on, they tend to score," Renteria said.

Bonifacio likely won't become a core piece during the Cubs rebuild, but he's emerged as nice fill-in option and could serve as a valuable utility player even after the kids - like top prospect Javier Baez - make it to Wrigley Field.

That is, if the Cubs don't trade Bonifacio first.