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Cubs’ Christian Villanueva breaks leg in practice

MESA, Ariz. – Christian Villanueva, an important part of the Cubs’ third base depth, broke his right fibula during infield practice Sunday, and the expectation is he’ll need surgery.

Villanueva, one of the better defensive third basemen in the system, was hurt when he landed wrong after leaping for a high chopper.

“It’s just crazy,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s going to be out for an extended period of time. It’s just really unfortunate. This kid came in ready to go. He made a great impression on us at the end of last season – a very good infielder and he was starting to hit.”

Villanueva, 24, who opened the season at AA Tennessee because Kris Bryant opened in Iowa, moved up when Bryant was promoted. He hit .257 with 20 home runs combined.

“Our guys spoke really highly of him last year, but they were talking even more glowingly this year about the advances he had made,” Maddon said. “It’s just unfortunate.”

Villanueva was acquired with pitcher Kyle Hendricks at the 2012 trade deadline from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster.