MESA, Ariz. – David DeJesus took the jeers in stride, placed the winning bunt just so and posed with the championship belt a few minutes later.
The Cubs’ center fielder defended his title in the team’s annual 64-man bunt tournament before Sunday’s 9-3 win over the San Diego Padres.
This is the second year that manager Dale Sveum ran the event. It was a way to work on the craft in a fun way, setting point values based on where bunted balls came to rest.
And it’s become a big deal in camp, with almost the whole organization in attendance on one of the backfields for the finals.
DeJesus beat Nate Hale, who played collegiately and works in the club’s video department for the prize money, a reported $3,400. It was clear that most around the field were rooting for Hale, but DeJesus came through on his last bunt in five rounds of eight attempts.
“It’s always easy to [root for the underdog],” DeJesus said. “The guy with the belt, people be hatin.’ But it’s all right.”
The good time was a precursor for what came later when the Cubs’ hitters broke loose.
Pitcher Travis Wood and DeJesus singled to start the sixth inning before a two-out, two-run double by Alfonso Soriano and a two-run homer by Dioner Navarro against Tim Stauffer.
The Cubs began the day last in the NL in team average (.247) and on-base average (.307) although regulars Anthony Rizzo (World Baseball Classic) and Starlin Castro (injured hamstring) have been out of the lineup for some time.
“We’re not going to know anything until we get all eight [regulars] out there,” Sveum said. “We are going to have to be creative in the lineups. It’s not going to be a prolific offense, but it will keep the line moving better than it did last year.”
Christian Villanueva added a two-run homer for the Cubs. He has three hits this spring and all of them are home runs.
Padres starter Jason Marquis threw four scoreless innings and allowed two hits. Reliever Andrew Cashner made his first appearance and had a clean seventh inning after coming back from thumb surgery stemming from a hunting accident in December.
“We didn’t see any sign of thumb [trouble], which he has shown through all of his workouts,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “It hasn’t been bothering him at all. It was encouraging.”
Mark Kotsay hit a two-run double in the third inning off Cubs starter Scott Feldman.
Notes: Cubs minor league third baseman Junior Lake was a lineup scratch because of a sore right arm. The timetable for his return was expected to be short. ... Cubs starter Matt Garza (back) was being reevaluated to see if he is ready to begin throwing from the ground after being shut down March 3. The right-hander originally was hurt Feb. 17. ... Padres infielder Logan Forsythe was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and will be out three to four days.