The talk amongst Cubs nation this weekend has been the failures of Carlos Marmol and the promotion of Kyuji Fujikawa to the closer role by manager Dale Sveum Sunday morning. Unfortunately the North Siders did not get a chance to test drive the new back of the bullpen structure this afternoon.
However, looking ahead one week, the Cubs staff and front office will have to make another roster decision as early as next Sunday. Darwin Barney was placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 31st after taking a gash to his knee in the final Spring Training game at Houston. The Cubs starting second baseman recently took some batting practice and should be on pace to return when the 15 days are up.
There is no question that Barney would immediately be inserted into his starting spot once he is eligible to come off of the DL. However there is a decision to be made as to who is the odd man out when the Gold Glover returns. Barney’s return would mean an infielder would need to be demoted from the 25 man roster.
April 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Cubs infielder Alberto Gonzalez (6) misses a ground ball from Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton (not pictured) in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
It basically comes down to choosing between Alberto Gonzalez or Brent Lillibridge. Gonzalez was the Opening Day addition when Barney was placed on the DL, but Lillibridge was the one that earned the start at second on April 1st after a solid Spring. Neither player has any options remaining and the Cubs would need either player’s consent before sending them down to the minors.
Through one week of play, Gonzalez has had the edge over Lillibridge at the plate. In 15 at bats Gonzalez has three hits with five strikeouts while Lillibridge has gone 0 for 11 with four Ks, the most notable being the one he took with the bases loaded.
In the field, Lillibridge had the error on Opening Day, only to later make a nice diving play. Lillibridge has also played at game at third base. Gonzalez has been errorless so far, but has only manned second base in 2013. However it should be noted that Gonzalez has played at the hot corner in his career. Gonzalez’s overall range factor per game also trumps Lillibridge: 2.95 to 1.25.
Considering Gonzalez has essentially taken over the second base job from Lillibridge since the season opening series in Pittsburgh, we may be seeing a sign that Sveum is leaning towards favoring Gonzalez. With the Cubs only projected to face one left handed starter this week (against the Giants at Wrigley), Lillibridge figures to just get one guaranteed start (likely at third place for Luis Valbuena) to make a positive impact.
This discussion may become a moot point with the hopeful return of Ian Stewart, as the survivor of the Barney return would figure to end up being the roster cut when the former Rockie third baseman makes his 2013 Cubs season debut. But hey, it was an attempt to get our minds of Marmol. Oh wait…