MESA, Ariz. – For the first time in more than a month, Mike Olt has a firm handshake again.
Whether he’ll be using it to greet teammates in the Cubs’ clubhouse when he’s back to full baseball strength again this summer or using it to make new acquaintances somewhere else, he can’t afford to think about that now.
“It’s all going to play itself out,” said the Cubs’ Opening Day third-baseman, who has been on the disabled list since the second week of the season because of a fracture in his right wrist.
“I’ll go crazy thinking about it if that was the case.”
Olt, who started at third in the last two Cubs’ openers, might be the most forgotten man in baseball, considering his replacement at third is one of the most celebrated young players in the game, Kris Bryant.
Olt, 26, knew as well as everybody else around the Cubs that Bryant loomed imposingly over the Cubs’ third-base job the minute he walked into big-league camp for spring training this year. And Olt took the high road, saying when the time came, the club would figure out where to play both guys – then took care of his own business and won the job.
Few had any idea just how quickly that time would come; just how quickly, and painfully, Olt would be forced to step aside – and nobody saw that fastball from Adam Ottavino coming on April 11.
Olt, who homered earlier in that game in Colorado, suffered a hairline fracture from that pitch. He tried to play through it for several days, until an MRI revealed the break that an initial X-ray didn’t.
Since then, Bryant has hit .289 with an .893 OPS, a team-leading 24 walks and team-leading 27 RBIs (entering Friday’s series opener in Arizona, where he took a 10-game hitting streak).
Olt, who got his cast off last week and took batting practice for the first time again this week, continues to take the high road and take care of the business of rebuilding strength in the wrist and getting back from the disabled list as quickly as possible.
Anything but worry about things out of his control or bemoan the rotten timing that seems to follow him in his career like a personal storm cloud.
“I’ve learned from baseball that everything kind of works itself out and you can’t really dwell on certain things,” he said before starting his rehab work Friday morning at the team’s spring facility. “You’ve got to keep going about your business.
“Kris is doing a great job right now, and I’m just making sure I get this back to 100 percent and be able to play with that team wherever they need me.”
“Wherever” could be the key. The outfield could be as jammed as the infield, especially if Javy Baez is back from AAA Iowa by the time Olt is ready to come off the DL. Bryant could be in left by then – and Starlin Castro, Addison Russell or Baez at third, depending on how the musical chairs settle.
“Baseball has this cruel way of answering its own questions,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You never know how it’s going to play out — if somebody does struggle, if somebody gets injured. A player in his position just needs to get well, start playing, start playing well and then just see what happens after that.”
“I just want to play,” said Olt, who overcame a beaning and vision problems two years ago to reach the big leagues. “I could play anywhere, whatever they need. I just want to be out there. I want to be with the Cubs, be part of that winning thing.”
Olt said he’s not hoping for a trade under the circumstances. He likes his teammates, the youth and the direction of this Cubs team.
“It’s tough to watch the games now and just wishing that I was out there playing and enjoying that winning atmosphere,” he said.
Often overlooked in the shadows of prospects like Bryant and Russell is the fact Olt was also a first-round pick and one of those highly touted young players.
“And I still am,” he said. “Baseball’s tough because you can forget it. It’s one of those things with the injuries and all this stuff happening, it’s easy to forget. But I still have the capability to come back and be the player I’m supposed to be and help the team win.
“I’ve got goals I want to accomplish.”