At present, 11 of the 13 positional spots on the Chicago Cubs’ 25-man roster are locked in (assuming the immovable object that is Koyie Hill is the backup catcher), leaving a handful of players competing to be the fifth outfielder and the middle infield backup. Specifically, Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez are fighting to be that fifth outfielder, and Darwin Barney and Augie Ojeda are battling for the infield spot.
Veteran outfielder Reed Johnson, who homered Thursday against the Oakland Athletics, and rookie infielder Darwin Barney are pulling away in races for the last two bench jobs. Barney has all but wrapped up a job as his main competition, Augie Ojeda, struggles to return to the field because of nearly two weeks of back problems. Chicago Sun-Times.
I agree that Barney is pulling away from Ojeda for reasons related to performance and health. While Ojeda has played very little this Spring (and hasn’t played particularly well when he has), Barney has seen action in almost every game, and is hitting .333/.355/.433. The wild card in the bench competition might be Scott Moore, whose 1.071 OPS in heavy action is hard to ignore. The problem for Moore? He doesn’t play shortstop, and the guy who wins this competition is expected to be the primary backup to Starlin Castro.
As for the outfield, if Johnson is pulling away from Perez – and I’m not quite sure yet that he is – it must be tied to the fact that Perez has an option left, and can be sent to AAA Iowa to play, whereas the Cubs would risk losing Johnson if he doesn’t make the team. Neither player has performed well enough to pull away from the other on that basis, alone. And Perez does have that unbelievable speed. This competition is not over.