One of the few unsettled questions this Spring is who is going to end up on that 25th spot on the Chicago Cubs bench.
The prevailing wisdom has the Cubs carrying a five-man bench, with one spot going to the back up catcher, one going to Aaron Miles (or Mike Fontenot, depending), one going to Reed Johnson, and one going to Joey Gathright. Guys like Micah Hoffpauir, Jake Fox, and Luis Rivas are the most likely in-house options for that last bench spot.
But the Cubs might still feel more comfortable going out and picking up an infield back up (Rivas, apparently – and for good cause – doesn’t count). Lou Piniella recently confirmed this line of thinking.
“It just might be, when it’s all said and done, we might have to have an extra infielder that can play first and third,” said Piniella, following his team’s 4-3 loss to the White Sox. “I’ll tell you why.
“Assuming that we stay the way we are, all of a sudden, we need to pinch-hit and we’ve got Miles or Fontenot or Theriot sitting on the bench. Once I use them, I’ve got no more infielders. We’re done. And these kids here are our nice options to send up late in the ballgame because they’re athletic, they can hit, they can run. But, boy, once you make a move, we don’t have any more infielders.” MLB.com: News.
Lou’s got a point, and although Micah Hoffpauir – the most popular pick for the 25th spot (in fact, many publications have gone so far as to presume he’s “replacing Daryle Ward”) – can play first base, he can’t play third.
That means if Hoffpauir’s going to make this team, someone else has to go, and it’s gotta be Gathright. With Reed Johnson, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley all capable of playing center field, and with Johnson assured a bench spot, Gathright is thoroughly superfluous. If it’s late in the game, and the Cubs need a lefty pinch hitter, raise your hand if you’d rather see ANYONE up there but Joey “perpetually sub-.650 OPS” Gathright.
I do have to take issue with one part of Lou’s thinking: it would be nice if the player could play 3B AND shortstop (1B is a given… dude, I could play 1B). Miles and Theriot might be passable at short in a pinch, but if Theriot goes out for an extended period of time, the Cubs could be in trouble – and there is no one in the system who can reasonably step in. Perhaps that guy is Rivas, even if he doesn’t make the team. He’d have to clear waivers and accept the assignment to AAA Iowa to stay on the Cubs if he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training. That’s a tall request in the new era of Cheapball.
My gut tells me that Lou is really hoping newly-signed Corey Koskie is the guy he’s looking for. Before post-concussion syndrome stole his last two years, Koskie was a great hitter, and a solid defender. He’s also a lefty, which partially obviates the need for a Hoffpauir (or a Gathright, but whatever, I’ve already had that diatribe).