By Bruce Levine-
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) –Third base is a job that is wide open for the Cubs this spring. Ideally Mike Olt comes away as the teams Opening Day starter at the hot corner on March 31.
Olt has been dealing with eye and disorientation issues since receiving a blow to the head two winters ago. Once the top minor league prospect in the Texas Ranger organization, Olt was traded as a part of the package that sent Matt Garza to Texas last July.
Still a young player despite the injury setback, Olt will get his first start this week. He will compete with Donnie Murphy and Luis Valbuena for playing time over the next month of spring ball.
“He is an individual that came in here to show everything he has got,” said Cub manager Rick Renteria. “He is coming off of a layoff and you never know,we are just trying to get him healthy and comfortable then see how it falls into place. Time will tell us though the spring what will happen.”
Olt has been happy with his new opportunity and has been working hard to make an impression at Cubs camp.
“Everyone here are a really close crew,” Olt said of his first Cub big league camp. “They all kind of took all the new guys in.you feel very much part of the team.You never know coming in as a young gut how everyone is going to react. it reminds me a lot of Texas where all those guys were close coming into the major league together.”
Getting over the concussion syndrome that had set him back has been quite a hurdle for Olt.
“This year I am better educated at what has been going on with me,” Olt said. “Last season I was unsure what was going on and it was hard to talk about the process. I have been given 100 percent clearance and more importantly I noticed from the first day of spring hitting a difference. last year I was not seeing the spin on the breaking ball. I thought nothing of it other than rust, this year I picked up the ball right away. I am totally different in my ability to play this spring.”
Olt refuses to get caught up on making the major league team.
“I can only control my work habits and making sure I am ready to play,” he said. “Whenever I get a chance to play I want to make sure I am prepared. I am not really worried about when or where it is. If I am ready to play and show results the rest will take care of itself.”
The 25-year-old infielder had his best season in 2012. He hit 28 home runs in just 354 at bats at Double A, earning a late season promotion to the majors. This spring he is working with Renteria and a whole new staff.
“Rick and the coaches have been great to work with,” he said. “He is a players manager..It appears he gets the best out of everyone. Listening to him talk about the future and getting to where we need to get,kind of gives you goosebumps when he is speaks.”