By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Following the release of Chris Coghlan and Ryan Roberts on Thursday, the Cubs’ regular-season plan has come into more focus.
Chicago will give spring training surprise Mike Olt a lion’s share of playing time at third base, but the team will utilize a platoon system. Luis Valbuena will also get time at the hot corner as he splits time between third base and second base.
Flexibility is the watch word for the Cubs in 2014. Manager Rick Renteria has many players who can play numerous positions. Only first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Starlin Castro and catcher Welington Castillo are really assured of starting every day at the same position.
Emilio Bonifacio will be an everyday player for Chicago, leading off the majority of games. Bonifacio will play numerous positions, including second base and the three outfield spots.
“This allows us a lot of options,” Renteria said. “This allows guys a lot of opportunity to play and keep them fresh.”
Infielders Darwin Barney and Valbuena and all the team’s outfielders are being counted on to play multiple positions. Olt also will be the backup for Rizzo at first base.
After nabbing one of the final roster spots, outfielder Ryan Kalish will add some versatility and plate discipline to the mix moving forward.
“He is a solid defender, runs well and puts together great at-bats,” Renteria said. “He has done a nice job after being down for a while (with injuries). He is extremely happy to be a part of our organization. We are happy he is a part of it.”
Platooning in the strategy-driven National League in which runs can be hard to come by can supply that little extra edge in winning a close ballgame with proper matchups. Since taking over in 2011, the Cubs front office has been focused on adding left-handed hitting as part of the key matchup process.
“This makes any number of combinations possible,” Renteria said.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.