MESA, Ariz. Three words have followed Ian Stewart from the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs used them to sell the trade to the media. Their new third baseman has other ideas. It wont really matter if he finally puts it all together.
I dont look at it as a change of scenery, Stewart said. In the early parts of the offseason, when my name was being thrown around, it was kind of upsetting to me, because I had grown up with them and I had been there for almost 10 years. I didnt go out of Colorado the way that I would have liked to or pictured it.
But when you hear a team like the Cubs, (a) storied franchise, and Theo Epstein (is) interested in you and they feel like you can do well, that just speaks volumes. It boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about the person (and) the type of player that you are.
The Cubs are betting that Stewart can approximate the player the experts thought he would become when he was coming out of high school in Orange County, California. The 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft will turn 27 on Opening Day. The clock is ticking.
At the winter meetings in Dallas, where everyone seemed to be chasing Albert Pujols rumors, the Cubs quietly worked on this deal.
One of the first moves of the Epstein administration was trading Tyler Colvin (another change-of-scenery candidate) and DJ LeMahieu for Stewart and pitcher Casey Weathers.
Stewart generated 25 homers and 70 RBI for the Rockies in 2009, before dropping to 18 and 61 the next season. He spent parts of last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and on the disabled list (right hamstring, left wrist) and didnt hit a single homer at the major-league level.
You just got to give him the at-bats and let him feel comfortable, manager Dale Sveum said. Just give him the job (and) let him know hes going to be out there every single day. Hes got incredible power and athleticism. He catches the ball. Hes a two-way player from the left side of the plate with power, which just doesnt come along every day, especially at third base.
If Jim Hendry were still general manager, the Cubs almost certainly would have brought back Aramis Ramirez, who never really connected with the fans and turned off some media members with his body language. But they were still talking about a Silver Slugger winner.
In Stewart, Epstein saw a player who should be in his prime and will be under club control for the next three seasons. If this works out, and Starlin Castro continues to develop, the Cubs wont have to worry about the left side of their infield.
He pretty much told me: Youre our third baseman. We want you (to) play every day, get all your at-bats, have a great year, go out and have fun, Stewart said. Just to hear that from a guy of his stature and his position with the team is very comforting. It just builds a lot of confidence.
To get a jump on the season, Stewart came to Arizona over the winter for a minicamp run by hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. No need to mention change of scenery. There is opportunity here. Everything is in place for Stewart to show that he belongs and that the Rockies were wrong.
I dont feel like now I can just sit back, Stewart said. Its definitely not a thing where I feel like I can just relax now. It gives me even a little more drive.