With the Cubs carrying 12 pitchers this season, there will be five bench spots available on the 25-man roster. Assuming health, one goes to Scott Hairston, and another goes to Dioner Navarro. A third almost certainly will go to Luis Valbuena. So, essentially, the Cubs will probably have an additional outfield bench spot and an infield bench spot to distribute by the end of the Spring. Dave Sappelt is your fair outfield bet, leaving an infield spot.
And, from the sound of things, that spot is a heavy Brent Lillibridge lean.
“I’m not going to lie to you, [positional versatility] gives you a huge edge in the National League,” Sveum told reporters, in reference to the 29-year-old non-roster invitee. “He’s got some sock in his bat for a guy who looks like he’s 150 pounds soaking wet.”
In the last two years, Lillibridge has played every single position on the defensive spectrum, save catcher and pitcher. If he can contribute offensively off the bench or in a spot start, he’d be an ideal player on any big league bench. Of course, the offense has been the problem – other than a superior year in 2011, Lillibridge has been far below average offensively. Even his dominant split – he’s a right-handed batter, so I’m talking about his time facing lefties – yields a so-so .235/.284/.430 batting line. That 2011 season is the one in which he got the most playing time, though, so at least there’s that.
Regardless, right now, it looks like he’s going to be that 25th man. In fact, Lillibridge says Sveum was one of the guys who really sold him on signing with the Cubs.
“I like to get a feel for the manager, especially in a situation like this,” said Lillibridge, to reporters. “I wanted to just talk baseball. [Sveum] really sold me on so many different parts of it and was real honest with me. That’s what you want from the manager and the whole organization.”
Lillibridge is in camp on a minor league deal, so the Cubs will have the opportunity to keep him even if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training.