CHICAGO – True to his word, Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria still isn’t letting the previous game’s outcome determine his starting lineup the next day. One night after taking over the team lead in home runs (eight), third baseman Mike Olt is back on the bench.
“We’re still mixing and matching,” Renteria said before Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “Probably continue to do so until we, in general, draw conclusions as to where we see they’re all at.
“To this point it’s advantageous to us to keep them getting into the lineup at some point and letting them play and letting them do what they need to do. We’re trying to balance it all out.”
After scoring 17 runs on Monday, the insertion of Luis Valbuena and the subtraction of Olt to face righty Adam Wainwright is the only change, so it’s not like Renteria is overhauling his entire starting eight. Five of the eight hitters are even batting in the same spot in the order. But it’s Olt's absence that might frustrate some fans. After all, how many teams who have trouble scoring runs don’t play their leading home run hitter every day –- even with a .187 batting average?
“We’re growing to that point,” Renteria said of Olt. “Once we feel satisfied to where he’s at then we’ll make that determination and make the adjustment. Right now we’re really happy the way he’s going about everything he’s doing.”
It remains the chicken-and-the-egg question of baseball. Can a player get hot -– or even stay hot -– without many days of consecutive at-bats? Are the Cubs doing a service to Olt by finding the right matchups for him to succeed or harm by not letting him see all types of pitching?
“Still trying to give them the best look at the guys that I think we can match them up against,” Renteria said. “I know Olt isn’t in there today but some of the guys have been swinging the bat well. All those decisions are based on –- some of them -– are based on who they’re going to face and how they’ve been swinging.”
Renteria’s mention of Olt in that last statement was unprompted. He knows it’s become a daily analysis among media and fans. Renteria says “they’re growing to that point” of playing Olt every day. You have to take him at his word, but just like the overall rebuilding process of the Cubs, it’s a slow work in progress.
“We want to teach them and talk to them,” Renteria said. “Hopefully it starts to take hold.”