With far more options to join the Chicago Cubs bench this year than there are spots, the team will have to make many difficult choices in filling out its 25-man roster. Manager Lou Piniella is hoping that Mike Fontenot can back up shortstop, making some of those choices just a little bit easier.
“Either you’re going to want a little more defense, or you’re going to want some offense,” Piniella said. “If Fontenot can play some shortstop, we can look to carry a bat. If he can’t, well then basically, we’ll be able to carry one less bat on the bench.”
In other words, the Cubs may be looking for a way to keep a player such as Kevin Millar, Chad Tracy, Bryan LaHair or Micah Hoffpauir. The odd-man out in that situation could be slick-fielding infielder Andres Blanco.
“We know that Blanco can do a nice job as a utility infielder and backup shortstop,” Piniella said. “Depending on what we do in the outfield, and we’re just supposing, if we carry a defensive center fielder to help (Marlon) Byrd out, a defensive infielder, (Koyie) Hill catching, now all of a sudden, you start getting a little thin offensively coming off the bench. If we can get a few of these other guys to be able to fill in for a day or two, we might be able to carry another bat.
“No determination has been made, but we’ve got to look at those things.” Daily Herald.
Or, the team could not carry 12 pitchers, but whateves.
With a five-man bench, there is only so much flexibility that the Cubs can have, even if Fontenot can backup shortstop. We know that Koyie Hill and Xavier Nady get a spot. The non-starting second baseman – Fontenot or Jeff Baker – gets another spot. That leaves just two spots. The good news is that, with those three guys, the Cubs can pretty much have a backup at every spot, assuming Fontenot can backup shortstop. The only tricky one is center field, but worst case scenario, Kosuke Fukudome can back it up, and the Cubs can insert Nady into right field.
That means that, at least in theory, the Cubs will be able to choose the two best players to keep on the roster. They’ll probably grab an outfielder who can play solid defense (Sam Fuld?), and an infielder who’s got a big bat off the bench (Chad Tracy?). Those are just my super-early thoughts, so it will be interesting to watch as things play out.