Clevenger to get first-base experience with Rizzo out
MESA, Ariz. -- When Anthony Rizzo joins Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic, catcher Steve Clevenger will shift to first base. It could help Clevenger win a spot on the 25-man roster.
The Cubs are sorting out their bench options, and most will need to wait until the third-base situation is settled. Ian Stewart is sidelined with a sore left quad, and if he can't go, Luis Valbuena will shift from utility man to starting third baseman.
There's an opening for Clevenger, who made the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher. The Cubs are looking for another left-handed bat for the bench.
"He puts himself in the mix," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Clevenger, who is to start Saturday at first against the Giants. "You'll start seeing him play a lot more first with Rizzo gone. I'll get him in at third base, maybe even put him at second base in a split-squad game or something.
"If you can have that third catcher to where you can pinch-run and not worry about the other catcher getting hurt, that obviously comes into the mix," Sveum said. "It all depends on what happens at third base -- a lot of these decisions do."
Clevenger batted .201 in 69 games last season with the Cubs, and hit .224 against right-handed pitchers.
"I played infield when I first signed with the Cubs and I feel comfortable doing it, so it's not a big change for me," Clevenger said. I see [Sveum is] trying to do something to help me try to make the team. I don't feel out of whack playing infield at all. I just want to go out there and take my ground balls and get my work in."
He hasn't played outfield since high school.
"How hard is it to catch a fly ball?" Clevenger said, laughing. "We kind of experimented a little bit in practice last year at Wrigley with [coach Dave McKay]. We worked on throwing and everything. It's a little tough at Wrigley at first with the wind and sun. My first day was in right field. I'm like, 'I don't know if I can do this at Wrigley.'"
He isn't worried about finding an infielder's glove. He'll tap into second baseman Darwin Barney's large supply.
The most versatile player in camp is Brent Lillibridge, who has started at first as well. A right-handed hitter, he can play all infield positions and some outfield.
"I wouldn't say you pencil him in [for the Opening Day roster]," Sveum said of Lillibridge, "but he's really our only player in camp who can do the things he can do, and he's had experience of a little bit of everything -- first base, and obviously, the three infield [positions]. He can catch the ball in the outfield and hit a home run, too. It's definitely a strong posibility [that he makes the team]."