CHICAGO -- You wouldn’t know it by watching him, but Chicago Cubs infielder-turned-outfielder Arismendy Alcantara has played exactly 22 games in centerfield heading into Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays. Eleven came at Triple-A Iowa earlier this season and 11 have come for the Cubs. His play suggests a more seasoned veteran of the outfield.
“In terms of us sitting in the dugout and reading a ball off the bat, his reaction time is very good,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Over time his angles will continue to clean up.”
His angles are pretty good now and he showed off his range, speed and natural instincts on Saturday with a sliding and a diving catch in the Cubs' 4-0 loss to the Rays. And he makes the routine plays look, well, routine.
“I just wait for the pitch,” Alcantara says of his style. “No cheating. If a guy pulls a lot I play a little bit more to that side. If he’s an opposite-field guy I move that way.”
So his reaction is truly where the ball is being hit. His jumps have been right on the money.
“His first step out there is pretty immediate,” Renteria said. “He gets to balls pretty easily. Many times I see him get under it very quickly. (I’m) impressed with the ability to get to that spot.”
If Alcantara can solidify his standing in the outfield it’s a big boost to the Cubs heading into 2015. A backlog of young infielders has cluttered the diamond, and while there will be a learning curve for others who move to the outfield it looks like Alcantara isn’t going to need several years to get used to the position. He’s closing in on it already.
“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I just go out and play.”
That’s the instincts of the game which can’t be taught. All he seemingly needs is some polishing. Alcantara was asked if he realized how impressed people were with his outfield play after only 22 games there.
“Not that much,” Alcantara responded. “I just have to keep playing and getting better.”