When both Darwin Barney and Blake DeWitt survived this week’s roster cuts, it was clear that the possibility that Barney – and not DeWitt – would see starts at second base with Jeff Baker was thoroughly on the table.
And, indeed, it appears that’s how the Cubs will start out the season. DeWitt has been told that he will open the year in a utility role, backing up third base (his natural position) and second, as necessary. Baker will remain the starter versus lefties – whom he destroys – and he and Barney will split time against righties.
It sounds like DeWitt, who has a good attitude about the whole thing, will spend more time at third than at second.
“Whatever helps the team,” DeWitt said about his new role. “I’m willing to do whatever. I’ve always liked playing second base better, but this game’s about winning. That’s what we’re all here to do. I’m more than happy to go over [to third base] and give it a shot.”
As for the new second base duo, the righy-righty setup won’t be particularly conducive to Barney’s offensive production – and, despite a strong Spring, he’s never been an offensive presence in his professional career – but no one can argue that Barney is the best defensive player on the team. The decision to give him some regular time at second base is doubtlessly the right decision at this point.
The decision to move DeWitt to a utility role, rather than send him to AAA Iowa, however, is questionable. If DeWitt is primarily going to back up third base, and if Barney is going to see more starts at second base… anyone else see the redundancy? His name is Jeff Baker. Jeff Baker has been the primary backup at third base, and if Barney can play at second on days that Aramis Ramirez takes off, why is DeWitt necessary? Because he’s a lefty? He hasn’t done much with the bat to suggest that he’s so valuable in a pinch that he merits a bench spot.
I would rather have seen the Cubs let Scott Moore remain with the big club – he also bats lefty, can also back-up multiple positions, and earned a chance to see what he can do – and send DeWitt to Iowa to work on his defense at second base (and get regular at bats – though I suppose the club wants him to continue working with Rudy Jaramillo on his new approach).
Unless the plan is to transition DeWitt back into a starting role at second base – and it’s hard to see how that’s possible if he isn’t going to be playing much second base – then the decision to keep DeWitt on the big club bench may well prove the first major decision of Mike Quade’s with which I disagree.