Tuesday April 5, 2011Posted: 4:35 PM Updated: 7:40 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Carlos Pena emerged from the training room on Tuesday with his right hand bandaged, keeping it compressed so that his thumb doesnt swell up. This is why the Cubs took out an insurance policy with Tyler Colvin.

The pain isnt overwhelming, but the Cubs are being cautious with their first baseman. Pena is listed as day-to-day with a mild sprain of his right thumb, and that gave Colvin a chance to test out everything he relearned in spring training.

The Cubs arent certain what theyll do at first base once Penas one-year pillow contract expires at the end of this season. Either way, Colvin figures to be a big part of their future.

Colvin showcased himself as the left-handed run producer the Cubs envision in a 6-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He launched a two-run homer into the right field bleachers, drew a bases-loaded walk in the pivotal seventh inning and handled everything thrown his way at first base.

When you looked out across Wrigley Field on Tuesday afternoon, you saw these players developed by the organization Colvin at first, Darwin Barney at second, Starlin Castro at shortstop and Andrew Cashner on the mound.

Youre always talking about that in the minor leagues, Man, once we all get up there, Colvin said. Thats the way you have to think. (And) I think thats the way you win (by) having homegrown players who have grown up together. (You) get up here and play the same game. You know what to expect out of them.

 

Teammates tease him about how the front office talks up Camp Colvin, the strength and conditioning program he followed to great effect at the teams Arizona complex.

The Ricketts family uses Colvin as an example in their stump speech, and the marketing department features him in promotional materials. Colvin is low-key and doesnt seek out the extra publicity, but hes comfortable enough with it.

The way Colvin sees it, thats much better than not being noticed at all.

Colvin had the same sensible approach to working out again at first base, a position that until this spring he hadnt really played since his sophomore year at Clemson University. He learned from a Gold Glove defender.

I like him out there, Pena said. Naturally (he) does a pretty good job there, but there are a couple things that we discussed and hopefully I helped him out a little bit. Hell be fine.

Colvin looked smooth at first base on Tuesday, scooping several throws out of the dirt and initiating a key double play in the eighth inning.

At 6-foot-3, Colvins a big target, and hes athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. That could be where he remains long-term, though the Cubs still need to protect themselves.

Penas injury isnt considered serious. But the Cubs watched Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee struggle through thumb problems last year. Lee even needed offseason surgery. Those issues sabotaged their offense.

Pena told manager Mike Quade that he was ready to go on Tuesday and available to pinch-hit. Pena called it a freak thing and wants to play Wednesday, though with an off-day scheduled for Thursday it could make more sense to give him extra time to heal.

Pena injured his thumb during the seventh inning of Mondays win. Pena made a play and tossed the ball to pitcher Sean Marshall, who was covering first base. Pena braced for the fall and landed awkwardly on his glove hand, bending his thumb back.

If he walks in here (Wednesday) and says Im 100 percent, he plays, Quade said, (but) I dont want him to come back and have something thats going to linger for weeks or more.

Pena laughed when a reporter asked whether he was worried about being Wally Pipp-ed. Colvin isnt about to challenge Lou Gehrigs streak of consecutive games played.

The Cubs hesitated to mess with Colvin and move him to first base late last year. But now he certainly doesnt look out of place.

I guess he was ready, huh? Quade said. He did a wonderful job over there.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.