Chicago Cubs reserve infielder Andres Blanco, a dazzler with the glove, had a fair chance to make the Cubs, but a recent knee injury, which will keep him out for a couple weeks, put a damper on those hopes. But if Blanco doesn’t make the team, who’s going to back up shortstop?
If manager Lou Piniella has his druthers, it will be Mike Fontenot on the rare occasion that Ryan Theriot doesn’t play. But what about Starlin Castro? If Fontenot shows he can’t handle backing up shortstop, would the Cubs considering carrying Castro on the bench?
Praise Jebus, the answer is no.
The Cubs have no other veteran shortstops in camp to back up Ryan Theriot, but Piniella ended any speculation that Blanco’s injury would open the door for Castro.
“This will give me a chance to play (Mike) Fontenot at shortstop, which I said I needed to do,” Piniella said. “We’ve got (prospect Rex) Barney in camp. We’ve got enough.”
Any way the Cubs would keep Castro at short, and move Ryan Theriot to second?
“No, no,” he said. “Starlin is going to start the season in Triple-A and play. Now the only way Starlin would come into this equation, and I’ve said this before, is if he shows he’s ready to play here and there’s a problem physically with Theriot.
“Now, we don’t want that. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve been very impressed with Starlin. He’s smooth up there, got a nice throwing arm, good hands. I’ll tell you what, he gives you a nice at-bat. But no, we’re going to go with Theriot at shortstop, and certainly (Castro) wouldn’t be up here backing up under any circumstances. We want this kid to play.”
So why not let him play at short?
“You guys are starting trouble already,” he said. “Four games into spring training. No, let’s just leave it the way we’ve said it (would be). … I’m happy with ‘The Riot.’ And remember, Castro has played only briefly in Double-A, and no Triple-A. Blanco is a two-week thing, tops. lf we needed a backup infielder, it would be more Barney than it would be Castro.” Chicago Breaking Sports.
The Barney to which Piniella refers is Darwin Barney, another slick fielding shortstop. What happens to him will be interesting – if he doesn’t make the Cubs, he would have been expected to be the starting shortstop for AAA Iowa, but Castro could put a crimp in things.
Most likely, the Cubs will start working him a bit all over the diamond at AAA, grooming him as a utility player, capable of replacing Andres Blanco on the roster, if Blanco – who is out of options – doesn’t make the Cubs this year, and is claimed by another team.
As for Castro, this is very good news. No sense in stunting the kid’s development just so the Cubs can have a maybe slightly better backup at second base.