MESA, Ariz. – The smile on Chicago Cubs outfielder Junior Lake's face told the whole story. One day after hitting three home runs against the Oakland Athletics in a Cactus League game, he happily answered questions at his locker about a rough spring that got a whole lot better Sunday.
“I [went] to the minor leagues [to] see more pitches,” Lake said of the hard work he’s put in.
Lake has been getting extra at-bats in minor league contests in between Cactus League games. It finally paid off when he crushed three balls in his final three at-bats in a 10-6 Cubs victory Sunday. His manager liked the adjustments he made after his first couple trips to the plate, including one awkward bunt attempt down a strike already.
“The more he sees pitches the more he gets into a rhythm of an at-bat,” Rick Renteria said. “I think he did for the last three at-bats.”
It was only a few days earlier that Lake’s spring batting average was below .200 with no power to speak of, but then he had two hits against the White Sox on Friday and finished his weekend with the performance against the A’s. His batting average rose over 50 points and seemingly his confidence rose with it.
“It was a nice day for him and he was obviously very happy,” Renteria said.
Lake could be rounding into form as the regular season approaches. Renteria said he hasn’t been worried about the results this spring, just players' approaches. The Cubs' lone breakout player of a year ago is flashing signs of his old self.
“I needed that,” Lake said. “That’s why I work. I’m preparing every day for the [season]."
Roster mystery: Renteria was asked who his Opening Day third baseman will be.
"Not willing to tell you, will let things play out,” he responded.
Roster moves: The Cubs trimmed their roster to 34 by sending veteran Darnell McDonald to minor league camp. They also released pitcher Chang-Yong Lim and re-signed Tsuyoshi Wada to a minor league deal.
Garza trade: Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels admitted recently he may regret trading four of his prospects -- including pitcher C.J. Edwards and infielder Mike Olt -- for a half-season of right-hander Matt Garza last year. Renteria was asked what he thought of those comments.
"I won’t speak for him, but do I think we're in a good place with the guys we got? Sure. And that’s all I’ll say.”