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Soler impresses Sveum in first spring BP

MESA, Ariz. -- Day 4 of workouts for the Chicago Cubs was highlighted by the arrival of one of the more intriguing players: 20-year-old slugger

Jorge Soler.

One of the prized prospects of the Theo Epstein era arrived in camp and immediately made an impression, putting on a display in the batting cage.

"Pretty impressive batting practice for the first day out there," manager Dale Sveum said after workouts were complete. "The ball comes off his bat like you want a ball to come off a bat if you're a manager."

Soler, a Cuban defector who was signed to a nine-year, $30 million contract last year, is a physical specimen, towering over other players at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Sveum likened his swing to a "right-handed Cliff Floyd."

"He has the hand strength that none of us can teach," Sveum said.

Hitting coach James Rowson wasn't present when Soler took batting practice but said he could "hear it from the other field."

Sveum echoed Epstein's recent comments that Soler hasn't played enough games to be considered for anything more than starting the season in Class A, probably Daytona.

Soler told reporters he wants to play in the major leagues next season, but Sveum just wants to see him on the field.

"He'll play right and left in spring training," Sveum said. "We'll make a decision on what during the season, but he's got a right-field arm. We'll get him playing time in both."

Sveum said both Soler and another top prospect, shortstop Javier Baez, will appear in the lineup together this spring but not necessarily by design.

Stewart arrives:

Ian Stewart has a hold on third base -- for now. Sveum didn't hide the fact he liked what Luis Valbunea brought last season while Stewart was rehabbing from wrist surgery. Sveum was asked if Stewart should have been around the team more while recovering.

"He could have been around the team a little bit more," Sveum said. "And I told him that. But no one told him he had to be anywhere or anything. He was rehabbing a surgery. It wasn't a major issue by no means."

• Sveum liked Matt Garza's bullpen session better on Thursday than on Tuesday.

"Garza was really good today," he said. "The ball came out of his hands better than the other day. His changeup was good. But the arm strength was really good today."

• Sveum said he would discuss with his staff Friday afternoon who would start on the mound for their Cactus League opening game next weekend.

• Sveum said pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who signed as a free agent this winter, has a "completely different body than what I saw in Milwaukee" when Sveum was on the Brewers staff and Villanueva bounced between the bullpen and rotation. It might give Villanueva a chance to pitch more innings if he's needed as a starter.