Last year, Mike Fontenot was anointed the Chicago Cubs’ starting second baseman out of Spring Training following a 2008 season where he was dominant at the plate in a part-time role.
The Cubs responded to his struggles (and Aramis Ramirez’s injury and Aaron Miles’ totally unpredictable sucking) by acquiring second baseman Jeff Baker from the Colorado Rockies. All Baker did was hit .305 with an .810 OPS in his time with the Cubs. And now, understandably, he wants to be the Cubs’ starting second baseman.
“Guys who you’re competing with for the same spot, you’re still good friends and [the competition] doesn’t change anything,” Baker said. “As long as Mike and I have the same mindset that it’s about what’s best for the team and about what’s best for the team that day, I don’t think anything will change. We’re both professional players and we both want to win.” …
“It’s one of those things, coming over here was a fresh start and an opportunity for me,” Baker said of the Cubs. “The one thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs is if you play well, you’ll get the opportunity to play. I’m going to try to take advantage of it and I’m going to go out there and go 100 percent. It’s not going to be from a lack of effort or lack of preparation.”
This offseason, he started hitting earlier than usual. Baker has been working out at George Mason University, which is near his home in Dumfries, Va.
“There’s no one there in December,” he said of the school, located in Fairfax, Va. “I started going a couple times a week and I’ve been going every day in January.”
He’ll be in the Cubs’ camp in Mesa, Ariz., when pitchers and catchers report Feb. 17.
“For me, taking ground balls off a gym floor is good,” Baker said, “but it’s definitely nice being out on the grass and I like the warm weather, too.”
He did not take the attitude that he’ll be a backup on the Cubs.
“I always prepare like I’m going to be a starter,” Baker said. “I believe I can play every day in the big leagues and I can be productive and help a team win. It doesn’t really change how I go about my business or my offseason.
“The opportunity to start doesn’t come along too often,” he said. “I’ve been fighting for one my whole career. If I get that opportunity in Spring Training, it’s something I’m going to try to grab hold of tight and not let go.” cubs.com.
For now, the Cubs expect to platoon the two second basemen, which may be the best move for all involved. Baker can pick up some extra at bats by spelling Aramis Ramirez at third or Derrek Lee at first, and Mike Fontenot can sit against lefties.