Cubs vs. Giants Preview, Sunday 2/24, 2:05 CT

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Cubs play their first 2013 spring-training home game, in what will be their final year at HoHoKam Stadium.

With Ian Stewart on the shelf for at least 10 and maybe up to 14 days, that doesn't give him much time to show the Cubs that he can take over the third base spot again this year. He's got a non-guaranteed contract, in force only if he makes the 25-man roster.

Luis Valbuena smacked a home run Saturday in the spring opener. I think most of you know how I feel about Valbuena; to me, he's much more useful on the bench, where he can play multiple positions and serve as a good lefty PH, than as the starting third baseman.

So far, though, most of the talk I've heard seems to be about Valbuena taking over the spot again.

This might have given Josh Vitters a chance -- but he's going to be out for the same length of time with a similar injury, and:

Vitters already had been told he will begin the season at Triple-A Iowa

So, what about Junior Lake? I mean, Phil Rogers and all, but this actually makes some sense:

Lake, who is 22, could emerge as a pleasant surprise in the current group. After a solid year as a Double-A shortstop and an even better winter in which he played lots of left field, he is moving to third base. He has developed slowly but demonstrated an all-around game at Tennessee, hitting .279 with 1O home runs, 21 stolen bases and a .773 OPS.

Ian Stewart's strained quad will give him a chance to play a lot the next three weeks, and it's not out of the question that he comes from nowhere to grab a job that was expected to go to a veteran, Stewart or Luis Valbuena (who also homered Saturday). Sveum said the solidly built Lake (6 feet 3, 215 pounds) is "a work in progress" defensively but he has made all the plays thus far in game situations, including a hard grounder to his left for the final out Saturday.

Lake made 22 errors in 57 minor-league games at third base. That's pretty bad, so "work in progress" is being charitable. Nevertheless, spring training is where you work on these kinds of things. He'll need to cut down on the strikeouts, too; he struck out 105 times in 405 at-bats at Double-A Tennessee last year.

Still, it's something worth considering.

Here's the Cubs lineup for this afternoon:

DeJesus CF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Schierholtz RF, Navarro C, Bogusevic DH, Barney 2B, Villanueva 3B

Giants lineup:

Blanco cf, Tanaka 2b, Sandoval 3b, Belt 1b, Kieschnick lf, Crawford ss, Peguero rf, Quiroz c, Villalona dh

Kieschnick. Kieschnick. That sounds... familiar. If you're wondering if that's former Cub Brooks Kieschnick, it's not. Brooks is 40 and last played in the major leagues in 2004. This is Roger Kieschnick, an outfielder who was the Giants' third-round pick in 2008. The two are third cousins.

Jeff Samardzija gets his first spring start for the Cubs; he'll face the Giants' Matt Cain.

MLB.com Gameday

Today's game is a webcast on cubs.com (and via the MLB At Bat app) with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie. The webcast will be online starting at 1:50 p.m. CT.

For spring-training games, we'll have a first-pitch thread at game time and one overflow thread, 90 minutes after game time (because I know how you all like overflow threads!). For today, that will be 2 p.m. CT and 3:30 p.m. CT. These threads will not post individually onto the front page; instead, you can find links to them in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page. They will also appear in this StoryStream™. The pitcher box and regular-season stats will return on Opening Day.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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