MESA, Ariz. -- With the Opening Day lineup on the field Friday, it gave Joe Mather a little time to sit back and revel in his accomplishment.
He would have rather played, of course, but the Cubs’ new super sub deserved a day off to watch after an impressive spring that took him from outsider to the Opening Day roster in a span of six weeks. Manager Dale Sveum announced Thursday that Mather will indeed make the team.
It was not only Mather’s versatility that won him a job (he can play first base, third and all three outfield spots) he also has batted .418 in Cactus League action and led the club in hits at the start of play Friday with 23.
“Yeah, I think if someone would have told I would have this good of a camp I would have been jumping up and down,” he said. "It’s been awesome. They gave me a good opportunity, and I was able to play well and it feels really good to take advantage of that.”
The real feel-good moment of the occasion happened Thursday before the Cubs played the Padres in Peoria when Mather, a Phoenix native, saw his father.
“Yeah, he called me over and at first I didn’t know what he wanted,” Mather said. “Then when I got closer he gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and it was pretty obvious at that point. But it felt really good. It was a nice hug.”
Now to embrace his role as a reserve. It was one thing for Mather to produce in spring training when he was playing every other day at minimum. But he will now have to figure it out while getting even more sporadic playing time.
While the Cubs seem set in the outfield with Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus, Sveum has said that if somebody like Mather has the hot hand, he will find him at-bats to get the most out of an offensive run.
“That’s great to hear coming from the manager that there might be some opportunity there,” he said. “Really at this point being cut down to the final 25 guys it’s about winning as a unit. Ultimately that’s what’s going to be most important. And if I play myself into a role that would be great too.”
He credits the breakthrough spring with being another year removed from breaking his left hamate bone in 2008.
“It’s something they tell you takes six weeks to heal and when you come back you find that’s not necessarily the case,” he said. “You lose a lot of the whip in your swing and kind of everything you taught yourself to do, you have to adjust. It was frustrating.”