Levine: Cubs’ Young Hitters Earn Their Spot In Lineup

By Bruce Levine-

(CBS) Time and again, Cubs manager Rick Renteria has talked about players earning more playing time in his platoon system by being productive. Questions as to whether youngsters Mike Olt and Junior Lake earned that time were answered for the short term in the Cubs’ 7-5 victory against the Pirates on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

The two youngsters, each caught in an early season platoon, teamed up for back-to-back homers in the fifth inning to help spur the Cubs.

Renteria had said in his pregame media session that he was waiting for a time to play the two in back-to-back games regardless of weather a left- or right-handed pitcher was out there. It appears today will be that day to get more prolonged playing time.

“They are all stepping it up,” Renteria said. “They are all going out there and competing on a daily basis.Not just against the competition, but showing everybody what they can do.”

Asked if Olt and Lake had earned a second straight day in the lineup, Renteria didn’t hesitate Tuesday night.

“Yes, (Thursday) is as good a day as any,” he said.

Lake and Olt would appear to have a leg up on some of their teammates because they are considered part of the future player development plan. Olt focused on keeping a simple approach to hitting the ball where it is pitched.

“Even after I hit the home run, I was thinking approach,” Olt said.

The young third baseman did just that, by hitting a ball to right field the next time up to drive in a run during a three-run sixth inning. Those runs proved more valuable than the home runs, as Pittsburgh came back two solo home runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth inning before Chicago hung up.

Lake hasn’t been thrilled with the early season platoon, and his mental state is something that Renteria admitted he worries about. But for the most part, all the Cubs understand the situation, as Luis Valbeuna spoke about last night before the win.

“You always need to stay prepared and positive,” said Valbuena, who splits time at third base. “I have been through it, and you learn not to try to worry about things that you don’t decide. I told Junior to relax. We have only played seven games, and we have a lot of games coming. He has a great future here, and he will play a lot of games. I told him to work hard and be ready for his chances. ”

Added part-time outfielder Ryan Sweeney: ” Some of the young guys will probably think it is some kind of lack of faith. Of course it is not, but your confidence sometimes still gets a test.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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