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.

  • wax_eagle

    While I would rather see Perez make the team, I understand the logic of keeping Johnson. If he performs he is probably more valuable this year. However, if he doesn’t he can be released and Perez can be called up with not much lost in organizational value.

  • jeff

    I would definitely rather see Perez stick, not only for his speed, his range in the outfield adds a dimension defensively they don’t currently have with any of the four regular outfielders. The veteran presence, steady play advantage of Reed Johnson is the same reason we are gong to be stuck with Koyie Hill, and is the only reason Augie Ojeda was brought to camp in the first place. How many of these guys do we need on the team?

    • wax_eagle

      0. Johnson can still swing the bat a little bit though. Something we don’t have this year is a solid bench bat when Colvin is starting. Reed although he doesn’t have a lot of pop is a better offensive option than anyone else with the possible exception of Moore.

  • Hogan

    I don’t think that the difference in thier bats is big enough to ignore Reed’s lack of speed, and injury history. Am I the only one who seems to remember “chronic back spasms sidelining him for significant time both years as a cub? Besides, I agree with Jeff, we have enough underachieving “clubhouse guys.”

  • Ace

    Johnson’s OPS against lefties last year was almost .800. He can still do it a bit at the plate.

  • PFK

    I just read Phil Rogers’ “Morning Phil” and I think the guy has totally lost it. Go read it and weigh in. His thoughts and comments made no sense whatsoever.

    • Ace

      Yeah, I’ve got that “tabbed” for a future post. It’s pretty bad – though I’ll confess that the idea crossed my mind at points over the last two years.

  • greg

    What about Luis Castillo? Any chance?

    • PFK

      Castillo? Talk about a washed up veteran who can’t stay healthy and has a bad attitude – yikes!

      • greg

        So he fits right in!

  • Sean

    Go Barney! It can’t hurt to have his character in the clubhouse.

    • Ace

      Plus he’s great with kids!

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