By Jose M. Romero
PHOENIX Luis Valbuena knows he has been given another opportunity to be in the major leagues, and hes grateful for it.
Valbuena, the Cubs everyday third baseman for nine days now after he was in the starting lineup Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, is determined to make the most of his chance.
Its another chance that has come my way and I cant pass it up, Valbuena said in Spanish.
Valbuena, once a top Seattle Mariners prospect who was paired with Asdrubal Cabrera as the next generation of Cleveland Indians middle infielders only three seasons ago, fell out of favor and ended up in the minors for most of 2011. He was then purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays, but didnt make their 2012 Opening Day roster.
The Cubs acquired Valbuena by claiming him off waivers April 4, but Valbuena was sent down to Iowa a few days into the season. He hit .303 with 26 extra-base hits, 38 runs scored and had 31 RBI over 58 games, and got the call-up when Ian Stewart was placed on the disabled list with left wrist soreness.
While his .231 batting average with the Cubs going into Saturdays game might not show it, Valbuena has made an impression on his manager, Dale Sveum.
Hes been pretty impressive. Gives a great at-bat every time. Played a great third base, Sveum said. Hes a major-league player, theres no question about it. The bat speed he has. The at-bats he gives you. The at-bats hes had against left-handed pitching.
Consistency is the key to success in the majors, Valbuena said.
If you can stay consistent, you can have a long career, he said. When bad things happen, you have to be strong enough in your mind to overcome them.
For Valbuena, the business of baseball means hes happy to have a job. Hes only 26 and has already played in all or parts of five major-league seasons.
Im glad a team wants me and likes my game, and Im just up here with another team trying to do well and show them (the Cubs) that they can count on me, Valbuena said.
Valbuena hopes he can be a Cub for a while, and although hes a veteran, being around players with more experience like Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol makes him feel brand new.
I feel like a rookie, Valbuena said. I learn from those guys because theyve been here a while.
Valbuena is versatile enough to play second base and shortstop, and his left-handed bat with a little pop gives Sveums lineup a different look.
I think we stole something there, Sveum said. Thats a pretty huge pickup for us, to get a left-handed guy that can drive the ball out of the ballpark and catch the ball at multiple positions. That was a heck of a pickup.