When Arismendy Alcantara was switched from second base to third just before Wednesday’s victory over the Cincinnati Reds, he became the Cubs’ fourth starting third baseman in eight games already this season.
Overall, he’s already the fifth to play the position that has become a focal point of the early season for a Cubs team that enters the off day Thursday in first place in the National League Central.
Will they get a sixth third baseman Friday? Monday in Pittsburgh? later next week in Cincinnati?
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he’s been given no date to expect the arrival of third base prospect Kris Bryant – the top-ranked prospect in baseball – but the talk of an inevitable debut is becoming more frequent and open as the service-time issue keeping him in the minors expires Friday.
The Cubs have carried an extra pitcher since backup third baseman Tommy La Stella went on the disabled list with a rib cage injury Tuesday, and Maddon said the club could restore roster balance by the time it opens a three-game series against the San Diego Padres Friday.
The bruised right wrist that kept starter Mike Olt out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game Wednesday could influence the timeline of the 6-foot-5 minor-league slugger that seems to be growing in Messiah-like stature with every day he gets closer to a debut.
Maddon seems to be preparing for exactly that scenario.
“The thing I like to do with young players like that is to really just try to emphasize, ‘You’re just one of a group,’ “ the manager said. “I’ve been around prodigies before, and part of [the adjustment] is the rhetoric; that would be the rhetoric from within.
“The rhetoric from outside is going to be glamorous, glorious, whatever hyperbole, whatever you want to call it. From within, it’s got to be real. Whether it’s Kris Bryant or eventually Addison Russell or a Javy Baez – we have a lot of these guys. When they eventually get up here I really try to disarm that whole thing conversationally and try to reduce [the outside noise].”
What Maddon doesn’t seem to be concerned with is the likelihood Bryant might struggle as he starts his big league career – even though he didn’t get the same big-league taste late last season that Baez, Jorge Soler, Alcantara and others did.
“Oftentimes when a young guy comes up there’s that naivete about it that permits you to perform like you always have performed,” Maddon said, “and I love when the guy’s able to maintain that level of naïve-ness because once he starts getting too sophisticated and starts to overanalyze the thing, that’s when it could possibly become a problem.
“Whenever these dudes show up I really believe that they’ll all come up here and contribute very quickly.”
– Left fielder Chris Coghlan, who finished Monday’s game at third base and Tuesday’s at second, got more work at second base on Wednesday and could see more infield time, Maddon said.
–Anthony Rizzo, who was second in the National League with 32 home runs last year, hit his first of the season Wednesday, a two-run shot in the first that gave the Cubs the lead for good as they earned their fourth win in five games to win their second consecutive series.