Teammates marvel at Bonifacio's 'epic' start

CHICAGO -- As the milestones pile up for Chicago Cubs infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, so do the accolades from all over the baseball world, including his teammates.

"It's pretty epic," outfielder Ryan Kalish said on Wednesday before the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5.

Bonifacio is putting up numbers that haven't been accomplished by a Cub in many years.

For example, not since 1914 has a Cubs player had 17 hits in his first seven games; Bonifacio added hits 18 and 19 in his eighth game on Wednesday night.

Only one other player has had 19 hits in eight games; that was Randy Jackson in 1954, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

No one before Bonifacio ever had a one-, two-, three-, four- and five-hit game in his first seven tilts. Check that one off for him, as well.

He's been outstanding.

But it's the praise from teammates that Bonifacio loves hearing.

"I think we were in awe the second day," outfielder Nate Schierholtz said. "When you collect nine hits in two games to start the season, I guess that's every guy's dream. It's been impressive. You think it's going to slow down, and it hasn't."

If it's not praise from teammates, Bonifacio has plenty of family and friends letting him know how he's doing. He doesn't need to look at the stats to know he's leading the league in hitting.

"A lot of friends they send me texts," Bonifacio said. "They're happy for me. Sometimes they send me texts telling me what I did and I'm like, ‘I was there. I did it. I know.' But I know they are excited, especially in the Dominican Republic."

Friends, teammates and even former teammates are wanting some time with Bonifacio, whose .500 batting average is tops in the majors entering play on Thursday.

"Jose Reyes [of Toronto], I talk to him almost every day. He says, 'Keep doing it,'" Bonifacio said.

Bonifacio has made it easy on Cubs manager Rick Renteria. No matter who's on the mound, Renteria can pencil him in as a switch-hitter who can play nearly anywhere on the diamond. With the Cubs' lineup in flux each day, Bonifacio has become entrenched.

"It's a unique skill to have," Renteria said of getting on base. "He's using it to the best of his ability. We're glad that we have him out there as often as we can. If you have a leadoff guy you can slot in, it's really big."

In a matter of a few weeks, he's become a leader on the team. Quiet by nature, Bonifacio is being sought out by teammates.

"Now we're just expecting it with him right now," Kalish said. "He's super educated; just picking his brain. He really has a good idea of what he's trying to do. That's huge for any player. It's really fun to watch right now."

Most Cubs say they've never seen or experienced a hot streak like the one Bonifacio is on, especially at the start of the season.

It takes time to get locked in and usually some warm weather. The Cubs haven't played a game in a warm-weather city yet, but that hasn't stopped Bonifacio.

"That's a serious hot streak any time of the season," Schierholtz said. "He's found a home here. He's so valuable because he can play everywhere. Something that every team needs."

The Cubs need it more than most. Getting on base and causing havoc isn't something they've had in great supply lately. That might be prospect Albert Almora's future role. Right now it's Bonifacio's role, as he has more natural speed than just about any other Cub.

"I think he's always going to have a really good chance when he goes up to the plate because of his overall knowledge of the game and experience," Kalish said. "He's been through it all and can get on base in so many ways. I love having him as our leadoff man."