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Archive for Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Second baseman sparks Chicago

March 10, 2009

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— Mike Fontenot is making a big push to win the Chicago Cubs’ second-base job.

One of the few players in camp who has been steady at the plate all spring, Fontenot went 2-for-3 with a homer and a double Monday during a 9-1 win over the Kansas City Royals that ended Chicago’s six-game losing streak.

“That little kid at second base — he is after a job, isn’t he?” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

The 28-year-old Fontenot also walked, scored twice and drove in two runs before 8,987 fans at HoHoKam Park. He is competing for a starting role with Aaron Miles, who played shortstop Monday and finished 1-for-3 with a run, bumping his batting average to .222.

Miles, 32, agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago on New Year’s Eve. In addition to playing second base, he is expected to spell incumbent Ryan Theriot at shortstop.

“Fontenot is tearing the ball up right now, and he is looking like one of these guys like (Chase) Utley and (Dan) Uggla,” Miles said, referring to a pair of NL All-Star second basemen. “He had a great year last year based on the amount of at-bats he had.”

Miles isn’t conceding anything yet to Fontenot, who is hitting .367 with seven extra-base hits and six RBIs, but is fine with whatever role is ahead of him.

“I am here to contribute on the level I am going to,” said Miles, who batted .317 in 134 games for St. Louis last season. “I am versatile in that way, and I am happy to be a contributor in any way.”

Piniella was not happy as the Cubs lost eight of nine before Monday’s game. But the offense came to life against the Royals, cranking out 12 hits. Alfonso Soriano homered, Derrek Lee had his first extra-base hit, a run-scoring double, and Aramis Ramirez raised his average to .318 with a 1-for-3 performance.

“I was pleased with the hitting,” Piniella said. “That’s what I have been stressing on a little bit.”

Soriano hit a two-run shot off struggling Brian Bannister, who allowed four runs, five hits and two walks in three innings. His spring training ERA is 6.75.

“I’m down,” Bannister said. “Obviously, I didn’t pitch well. I know I’m competing for a job, but I’ve got to continue to get ready for the season, too. It’s that balance of getting ready for the season, but also right away competing.”

The Cubs’ pitching also was solid as Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija, two fifth-starter contenders, combined to allow one run over five innings.

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