Baker, DeWitt may fumble away second-base job

Barney is one to watch (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

The Cubs are cautioning people not to take anything for granted as far as the second-base battle goes.

Coming into camp, team officials acknowledged that the likely shakeout would be a platoon between Jeff Baker, a right-handed hitter, and Blake DeWitt, a lefty.

Through two weeks of games, no one was stepping up.

DeWitt was off to a 4-for-22 (.182) start and was having trouble in the field to the point where he was taking extra work. DeWitt came up through the Dodgers system as a third baseman. Baker is more of a platoon player who hit much better against left-handed pitching last year.

One name to watch is Darwin Barney, who came up last year and impressed the Cubs in 30 games. Even if Barney doesn't win the starting job, the Cubs have said they want their backup infielder to be able to play shortstop, and Barney fits the bill.

Non-roster man Augie Ojeda, who played for the Cubs from 2000 to 2003, is in camp. He's not much of a hitter, but he's a sure-handed fielder who also can play short.

The Cubs are not averse to handing a job to a young player. In 2007, Ryan Theriot took the starting shortstop job early in the season.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Esmailin Caridad and LHP John Gaub were the first cuts of spring training, both getting optioned to Class AAA Iowa. It's a different spring for Caridad, who was handed a job almost at the outset of spring training last year. He wound up with elbow problems and in the minor leagues.

--LHP John Grabow, trying to come back from knee problems last year, is battling tightness in his pitching shoulder. Grabow entered last weekend having not pitched since the Cactus League opener on Feb. 27. "It's nothing serious," said manager Mike Quade. "We're just being careful."

--RHP Andrew Cashner is getting stretched out to start, even during relief outings. He worked the final four innings of a game against Cleveland, and he gave up three hits and a run while striking out three.

"My goal ... was to try to get guys out on four pitches or less, and I really cut down on my walks," Cashner said after walking one. "It was a big building day for me." It's not known when Cashner will get a spring start.

--1B Carlos Pena went almost two weeks into the Cactus League season before hitting his first home run. Pena, who hit just .196 last year with Tampa Bay, was off to a .118 (2-for-17) start in spring training. He hit 28 homers last year and said his work this spring with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is going well. The Cubs would seem happy if Pena can get his batting average up to the .240 range and hit at least 30 home runs.

--RHP Matt Garza got off to a rocky start. Garza, obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay in January, finished the week 0-2 with a 14.85 ERA. More troubling is that Garza had walked as many as he had struck out (five) in 6 2/3 innings. Manager Mike Quade said he's not worried and thinks Garza might be trying to prove too much with his new team. "When that bell dings in April, I'm going to be ready to go," Garza said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 48 -- Walks coaxed by Cubs hitters in the first 14 games of spring training. Their team on-base percentage was .342. Last year, the Cubs were 11th in OBP (.320) and 14th in walks (479).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You can't throw them out. These are the best outings to learn from." -- Garza after giving up five runs in the first inning of a start against the Royals.

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