While it has been assumed by most that, since he was acquired last year in the Ted Lilly trade, Blake DeWitt was *the* Chicago Cubs’ second baseman until further notice, I suspected that he could find himself in a bit of a battle this Spring with infielder Jeff Baker and possibly an up-and-comer like Darwin Barney.
The first and most obvious clue? Mike Quade suggested repeatedly that Baker would leadoff against lefties – meaning that Baker, and not DeWitt, would play regularly at second base against lefties, even though DeWitt actually hit better against lefties last year than he did against righties.
Losing the job is just one step removed from a platoon, and at times, Baker has looked like he could be a productive full-timer at second base. Thus, I see things this way: DeWitt is the presumptive favorite to start at second against righties, but Baker could win the full-time gig with a much better Spring than DeWitt.
And it sounds like DeWitt is going to have to work very hard to keep that from happening.
“There are plenty of guys in the mdidle of the diamond who are playing well,” Quade said. “They are doing what they do. [DeWitt] is a left-handed bat in the midst of those guys. He’s a guy we would like to be able to count on. But we are going to look at everybody.”
That list includes DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney and Augie Ojeda. DeWitt has struggled defensively early in spring training. Quade and his staff are concerned not only by DeWitt’s errors [he has committed two in Cactus League play] but also by some of the missed opportunities when he could have turned double plays.
“[DeWitt has] got some work to do,” Quade said. “Nobody works harder than him. He’s going from third base to second base. We backed off third base completely. And I think to me the main point would be consistency around the bag turning the double play.”
DeWitt, who was out early taking extra ground balls with Castro on Wednesday, said he is working everyday to improve on the double play.
“It’s something I want to improve upon,” said DeWitt, 25, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade that sent Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly to Los Angeles on July 31. “I feel comfortable turning the double play. I’ve made a few strides this spring understanding some things mechanically that I didn’t get before. That’s why [Starlin] Castro and I have been working early on things, and it’s all looking good.” ESPN Chicago.
DeWitt’s bat is never going to carry him if he can’t play adequate defense, even at second base. Most feel like he’s got the potential to be an above average defensive second baseman (he has always been an excellent third baseman), but so far, he hasn’t shown it.
But DeWitt has plenty of room to grow, both in the field and at the plate. He’s just 25, after all. For comparison’s sake, it’s worth pointing out that “youngster” Darwin Barney is also 25 – just two and a half months younger than DeWitt.