Utility man Emilio Bonifacio was spectacular on Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs. The versatile journeyman started in center field and batted leadoff for the Cubs against the Pittsburgh Pirates, producing four hits in five plate appearances and even stealing a base for good measure. Bonifacio did get picked off in the 10th inning on a call that was reversed via replay, which was obviously not helpful, but it was a very encouraging performance overall.
This Cubs lineup is clearly going to struggle to score runs, as evidenced by yesterday’s extra-inning blanking at the hands of the Pirates. There are profound question marks all over the lineup, and one of the more critical dilemmas is in regard to the leadoff spot. However, although it is just one game, Bonifacio may have solved this problem, at least in the short term.
The Cubs acquired the well-traveled Bonifacio shortly after his release from the Kansas City Royals back in February. At the time, it seemed like a curious decision, albeit it relatively low-risk. It was presumed that Bonifacio would provide flexibility in the infield, and possibly handle second base exclusively if the Cubs were willing and able to trade Darwin Barney.
The Bonifacio signing also seemed to indicate a lack of confidence in Mike Olt at the time, with the Cubs believing they required more depth in the infield. Of course, the third base gig now belongs to Olt, provided he can hit consistently at the big league level, and Barney started at second base on Opening Day.
Clearly, the Cubs need to figure out a way to get the 28-year-old Bonifacio into the lineup as often as possible. He has played a variety of infield and outfield positions in his career, and manned center field on Opening Day against the Pirates with lefty Francisco Liriano on the mound. Because of his versatility in the field and his ability to switch hit, Bonifacio should continue to receive significant playing time for the Cubs.
Bonifacio could just be the table setter the Cubs desperately need. Of course, getting on base is only part of the equation, and the Cubs were a miserable 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, a familiar refrain indeed. Fans can only hope that this will improve as the season progresses.