Pena's Defense Factored into Signing

Pena boosts defense (AP)

As happy as the Cubs are to have first baseman Carlos Pena for his power potential, they don't want people to forget about his defense.

Defense will be one thing manager Mike Quade stresses when spring training begins in mid-February.

"He'll help the whole infield," Quade said. "That's a point of emphasis, for sure. We've got to improve defensively on the infield, and he'll be a big part of that."

The Cubs finished the 2010 season with a .979 fielding percentage, tied for worst in the majors with Florida, Washington and Pittsburgh.

One constant over the last seven years was the sure-handed Derrek Lee at first base. Pena, who throws left-handed, won a Gold Glove in 2008, and he should help with throws coming from third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Starlin Castro, who had a rough rookie year in the field, making 27 errors.

"I do take a lot of pride in my defense," Pena said. "It's always been embedded in me since I was a little kid. My dad always mentioned and made reference to guys like Tony Fernandez, these great shortstops from the Dominican Republic, where defense was always highly regarded. It's actually something that's part of my being."

GM Jim Hendry said Pena's glove was a factor in the Cubs giving him a one-year, $10 million contract to leave Tampa Bay.

"His glove is outstanding," Hendry said. "Obviously, Gold Glove caliber, which factored in, also. We needed to play better defense. Our defense, in hindsight, was not good. That affects a lot of things.

"He's a rare guy that has that much power and plays that great of defense."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Castro got off to a .317 (19-for-60) start in the Dominican winter league. Quade said at the end of the 2010 Cubs season that he wanted Castro to concentrate on defense this winter. Quade also said he wants to see Castro in action at some point this winter, perhaps in early January.

Quade sat Castro for several games late in the season to get the rookie to focus better.

"I felt like a much bigger deal was made about it than should have been, but that's OK," Quade said. "It had nothing to do with Mike Quade. I thought it was the right thing to do for Starlin Castro and for the organization and the ballclub."

--RHP Kyle Smit was added to the 40-man roster in the fall, and he'll get a good look out of the bullpen in spring training. Smit, 23, came to the Cubs from the Dodgers organization in the July 31 trade that sent LHP Ted Lilly and INF Ryan Theriot to L.A.

Smit is a slender (6-foot-3, 165 pounds) righty who went 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 12 relief appearances for the Cubs' Class AA (Kodak) Tennessee affiliate after the trade. In the Arizona Fall League, he went 3-1 with a 4.05 ERA in 10 relief appearances, giving up 13 hits and two home runs in 13 1/3 innings. Control, not power, is Smit's forte.

--RHP Christopher Archer will be a longshot candidate to make the rotation out of spring training after being added to the 40-man roster. Archer, 22, was the Cubs' minor league pitcher of the year in 2010. He went 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA at Class A Daytona before going 7-1 with a 2.86 ERA at Class AA Tennessee.

Archer walked 65 and struck out 149 in a combined 142 1/3 innings. He is one of three pitchers the Cubs got from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa trade two offseasons ago. The Cubs say they like Archer's cerebral approach on the mound.

--LHP James Russell might be the No. 3 left-handed reliever on the depth chart despite a good rookie year. Russell, pitched in 57 games, going 1-1 with a 4.96 ERA. Russell walked only 11 while striking out 42. LHP John Grabow is expected back after rehabbing his left knee, and LHP Tom Gorzelanny also could figure into the bullpen picture. Russell was a starter for much of his minor league career, and the Cubs haven't ruled out grooming him to start again.

--OF Sam Fuld will have to fight for a roster spot in spring training. Fuld has appeared in parts of three seasons with the Cubs, including 19 games in 2010. A speedy left-handed batter and thrower, Fuld has shown the most prowess on defense. But the outfield will be crowded, and the Cubs have youngsters Tony Campana and Brandon Guyer coming fast from the minor leagues to compete for backup spots. And that's to say nothing of CF Brett Jackson, who could compete for a starting spot in spring training. Fuld had a hitting line of .272/.383/.394 at Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa with 21 stolen bases.

BY THE NUMBERS: 126 -- The Cubs committed 126 errors last season. Only the Nationals and Pirates had more miscues in the NL.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hope it did something for the confidence of the club as a group and a lot of individuals. The fact of the matter is we pitched the living daylights the last five or six weeks. We put some runs on the board, but the pitching was incredible." -- Quade on the Cubs' strong finish to the 2010 season

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