Mike Fontenot is locked in a battle with Jeff Baker to be the starter at second base (even though it’s a natural platoon situation, but whatever – I don’t get paid $4 million by the Chicago Cubs to make these decisions like Lou Piniella), but the Cubs are hoping he can also be the backup at shortstop.
And so far, so good.
Manager Lou Piniella also was pleased at something that didn’t show up in the box score: Mike Fontenot’s performance at shortstop.
“That’s one of the highlights of [Monday's] game,” Piniella said. “He made a couple real nice plays and felt real comfortable out there. We’ll continue to play him there from time to time. It gives us different options, if we chose.”…
“I enjoy moving around,” Fontenot said Tuesday. “It’s fun to do that. Most of the time, if I’m not starting, I’m probably at shortstop. It breaks up the monotony.”…
Fontenot had been slowed by a sore right shoulder, which he injured last Thursday in the Cubs’ first Cactus League game when he took a tumble at third base. He hasn’t had any problems since.
“I completely forgot about it,” he said.
The Athletics didn’t waste any time testing Fontenot’s throwing ability, as he fielded several grounders in the early going.
“They tried to get me right off the bat,” Fontenot said. “That’s usually what happens is you get out there and someone hits a missile at you. It was just good to get out on the field. I hadn’t played in a few days.”
The throw from short compared with second base is different.
“It’s a little bit further,” he said. “You just have to move your feet a little more and make sure you’re not just sitting back. You have to get your feet set.”
The left-handed-hitting infielder batted .305 in 2008 and was tabbed the Opening Day second baseman for ’09. But he batted .236 in 135 games last year. The good news is that he never let his offensive struggles carry over onto the field.
Fontenot doesn’t mind moving back and forth in the infield.
“It’s always good to show the Cubs, or anybody else, that you can play multiple positions,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. I look forward to any opportunity I can get on the field, even if they want to throw me out in the outfield. I’m available for anything.”
Last year, pitcher Sean Marshall was moved to left field for one batter so he could stay in the game in relief. If Marshall can handle the outfield, so can Fontenot. But the Cubs will worry about the infield for now.
“I was encouraged by what I saw,” Piniella said. “He feels comfortable with it, which is more important than anything else.” cubs.com.
Interesting that Fontenot said it’s good to show the Cubs or anybody else that you can play multiple positions.
To me, it’s pretty clear that the Cubs are not going to carry an extra infielder for defense. Andres Blanco’s knee injury didn’t make the decision, but it didn’t help. Piniella is already touting Fontenot’s ability to handle shortstop, and that’s really all he needs to know. Ultimately, it’s probably fine. Ryan Theriot will rarely sit, and if he’s out for an extended period of time, the Cubs will bring up a defensive shortstop – Starlin Castro or otherwise.