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Core Work? Olt makes club as Cubs set position roster
MESA, Ariz. – Will Mike Olt become the next core player in the Cubs’ rebuilding plans?
The third baseman once ranked 22nd among Baseball America’s top prospects gets the chance to start answering that question next week after making the big-league club in his first spring with the Cubs.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer on Thursday finalized the position side of the team’s Opening Day roster when he announced Olt and outfielder Ryan Kalish had earned the last two non-pitching spots.
The decisions mean outfielder Chris Coghlan, the former rookie of the year with the Marlins, opens the season in AAA Iowa. And infielder/outfielder Ryan Roberts leaves the organization.
Roberts, who was signed to a minor-league deal in January, exercised his rights to opt out of the deal and elected free agency in an attempt to land a big-league job in the final days of the spring.
Olt isn’t expected to play every day at third right away after taking much of the spring to rebuild strength after rehabbing some shoulder soreness.
Manager Rick Renteria said left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena still will share playing time there with right-hander Olt.
But if Olt continues to look at the plate like he did this spring – and like he projected as he came through the minors with Texas before last year’s season-crushing tear-duct/vision problems – it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup.
“The way he swung the bat was really impressive, and we like the work he’s done at third, and I think he’ll keep getting healthier and keep getting better there,” Hoyer said. “He had a great spring with the bat. I thought his at-bats were really good. He was patient, aggressive. His swings were aggressive, and obviously he did a lot of damage and drove in a lot of runs.
“Over the last two weeks, it was pretty clear if he was able to play third and get over there and get enough innings in and enough reps, it was pretty clear we wanted the bat at Wrigley.”
Kalish, a former promising prospect in Theo Epstein’s Red Sox system, has been waylaid in recent seasons by serious injuries, including one requiring spinal fusion surgery.
But he looked healthy throughout the spring and looked like the player voted Boston’s rookie of the year in 2010 after just a two-month big-league debut – before the injuries struck.
“We loved the way Kalish played all spring,” Hoyer said. “He showed great energy. He can play all three outfield positions, and gives us another left-handed bat.”
The Cubs position roster enters the season perfectly balanced, with six right-handed hitters, six lefties and one switch hitter.
The Cubs still have a fifth-starter decision to announce (likely Carlos Villanueva) and two or three bullpen spots to sort out in the next two days.