Soler setting expectations very high

Cubs fans have heard hype before, but Jorge Soler is living up to the billing. Michael O'Day/Icon SMI

MESA, AZ. -- If the Chicago Cubs want to slow down some of the hype following 20-year-old Cuban prospect Jorge Soler then he better stop putting on hitting clinics.

Soler, in the team's first game of any kind this spring -- an intra-squad affair at Hohokam Park-- homered in his first at-bat off minor league pitcher of the year, Nick Struck.

"Pretty nice bat speed we saw," manager Dale Sveum said after the "White" team beat "Blue" 7-3 on Thursday. "Pretty good at-bats. He took a walk. That's the stuff we talk about all the time. (He's) on the radar."

After hitting the bomb to left field, Soler walked on a full count then added to his resume with a diving catch on a sinking liner to left field in the final inning of the scrimmage.

Soler said through a translator he was "happy" hitting the home run.

"I want to do everything on the field to help the Chicago Cubs," he said.

Sveum added: "These kinds of things we've seen in the past. We've all come across tool guys and bat speed and all that and it never seems to pan out. We got to see him today, instincts ... He doesn't seem like a panic type guy. Very poised."

Despite a good first couple weeks, don't expect Soler to start the season much higher than Single-A probably in Daytona. He needs to play every day and he knows it.

"If you play every day you learn more about baseball," he said through a translator.

Cub fans are all too aware of the hype surrounding prospects, but it's hard to slow it down when Soler keeps performing. First it was batting practice home runs over the first 10 days of camp and now it's against a pitcher trying to get him out.

"I'm very impressed by him," outfielder Nate Schierhiltz said. "You would never guess he's 20 years old the way he carries himself and how big and strong he is."

Schierholtz homered as well, off the flag pole in right field, but for the few in attendance at Hohokam Park they might look back on this day as a special one. They'll remember Soler's first home run of any kind wearing a Cubs uniform.

"I'm sure he'll be exciting to watch," Schierholtz said.

Javier Baez

The Cubs' first-round pick of 2011 played shortstop for one team in their intra-squad game but fumbled two balls including a tailor made double-play ball.

"Little shaky today," Sveum said. "Kind of young stuff that's still there that has to be cleaned up. Behind the scenes, we have to change some instinctive stuff."

Baez struck out at the plate and made it to first on a fielder's choice. In the very early going Soler looks to be ahead of Baez in the pecking order.

Sveum's Philosophy

If you want to get a good idea about what the Cubs are trying to do at the plate here's the philosophy of Sveum, hitting coach James Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rob Deer: "We're putting in a plan to exaggerate setting your sights high in the strike zone," Sveum said.

Sveum wants his hitters to take the "borderline low pitches" and he was pleased many of them followed through in Thursday's scrimmage.

"A lot of good things happened at the plate," Sveum continued. "It's something we're trying to emphasize and a lot of guys put it to work. We had some good walks, some good takes."


* Sveum said both Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters are day-to-day with minor left quad injuries. Stewart may have been hurt coming out of the batter's box on a double. He eventually came out of the game. Both were scheduled to play in Friday's scrimmage.

* Sveum echoed Matt Garza's comments from earlier on Thursday, he's progressing. But his lat injury has eliminated him from the bunting competition. Strength coach Tim Buss will take his spot.

* Outfielder Brian Bogusevic homered in Thursday's game and Junior Lake tripled off the wall.

* Starlin Castro had 3 hits.