Screen_Shot_2015_03_28_at_7.45.06_PM.png

Jorge Soler

Soler by any other name just as sweet to Cubs manager Joe Maddon

SHARE Soler by any other name just as sweet to Cubs manager Joe Maddon
SHARE Soler by any other name just as sweet to Cubs manager Joe Maddon

MESA, Ariz. – As he stepped to the plate during a split-squad spring game against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, the Cubs’ Jorge Soler was introduced by the Reds’ public address announcer as “George Solar.”

The announcer got Arismendy Alcantara’s name right. And you can be sure Kris Bryant’s name would have been pronounced right even if Bryant decided to be Matt Szczur for a day.

But Soler? Consider it just another day of spring life in the relative anonymity of Bryant’s immense shadow.

“Beautiful for George, right there, man,” said manager Joe Maddon, who raved about what he’s seen from the 6-foot-4 rookie right fielder this spring – regardless of how little outside buzz Soler might be stirring.

Even as Bryant produced a four-hit game against the Rockies in the Cubs’ other split-squad game, Maddon already has decided how buzz-worthy Soler is to his lineup plans – with Soler as a 2-hole candidate on days Maddon bats the pitcher eighth, because of Soler’s run producing potential as well as his ability to work a pitcher.

“He’s like Vladimir [Guerrero] with plate discipline,” Maddon said of the nine-time All-Star slugger. “It goes beyond his power. I mean, this guy looks over a baseball. This guy’s got great decision-making ability at the plate.

“He’s a really interesting baseball player, man. I heard all the good things, but in this camp his impression upon me has been really strong.”

The Cubs have taken it easy with Soler’s workload this spring to keep his legs strong after more than two years of injury issues, and he’s held up well. Maddon says he’s impressed with his fielding and the strongest outfield arm in camp.

And after a hit and a walk Saturday, Soler is 15-for-44 (.341) with three homers and four walks this spring.

Soler, who unlike Javy Baez and Kyle Hendricks retains his rookie status into this year, said he hasn’t thought about Rookie of the Year potential.

“I’m just working hard and keeping my mind in the game,” he said earlier in camp, with the help of coach Franklin Font translating.

Maddon didn’t see Soler play until this spring. “As a scout, my God – how old is he? 23?,” Maddon said. “I mean, if he was in the United States as a draft choice, he’s a No. 1 pick, there’s no doubt. No. 1 [overall], absolutely.”

Soler, who had a .903 OPS during a monthlong debut last year, seems confident, healthy and strong heading into the April 5 opener against the Cardinals.

“I think I’ve got a chance to take off, keeping my routine and doing the same as last year,” he said.

NOTE: The Cubs optioned former Northwestern lefty Eric Jokisch to AAA Iowa (though he’ll still make Tuesday’s Cactus League start as scheduled) and gave lefty Felix Doubront his unconditional release. Because of the timing of the release, the Cubs pay only 45 days of Doubront’s $1.925 million salary, recouping more than $1.45 million. The cuts leave 35 healthy players in camp (plus three rehabbing injuries).

The Latest
Already a Hall of Famer, the former Cubs pitcher was humbled and honored to no only have a statue at Gallagher Way adjacent to Wrigley Field — but next to statues of his former teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.
After taking series from Royals, Sox brace for three games in two days with Yankees
Bernardo Gomez was on the Green Line platform in the 4700 block of West Lake Street when he was kicked in the head by the teenage boy.
The teams combined for 11 home runs on a breezy day at Wrigley Field. But the Diamondbacks hit seven of them — four off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Josh Rojas hit three homers and David Peralta two as Cubs lost their third consecutive game after winning four straight.
It’s an unusual timeline for any legislation to move through the council, and unnecessary at that, said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who vehemently opposes Bally’s proposal to break ground at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.