Cubs' Camp Looking To Turn Heads This Spring




CHICAGO—Matt Camp was able to win over some tough coaches and managers in Mexico.

Now he's looking to win over Lou Piniella and his coaching staff.

Camp is one of a host of non-roster players invited to spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz. The lefthanded hitting, righthanded throwing 25-year-old hit .329/.400/.448 in 59 games with Mexicali of the Mexican Pacific League with 18 doubles, two homers, 29 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.

But more impressively, in the Cubs' brass' eyes, is that he picked up valuable infield time. The 6-foot, 175-pound Camp was brought up as an infielder but spent more time as an outfielder last year. He continued to work on his versatility in Mexico.

"He had a real good year," Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita said. "He's had a chance to play some shortstop. He's had a chance to play at second base. He's played the outfield.

"When you're a non-Latin player, to get a chance to play some short and second base in Latin America is saying a lot. They produce their own players and it's usually a position of strength. It was a nice experience for him to continue to wear a lot of hats and play a lot of positions. That will benefit his career."

Camp was a 13th-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2006 and has been making a steady climb in the organization.

After 14 games with Double-A Tennessee in 2009, he made it to Triple-A Iowa and hit .282/.325/.342 with 18 stolen bases in 348 at-bats.

Piniella's philosophy is to keep one or two roster spots open for what he calls "surprise" players who have great springs and appear they will be able to help the big league club.

Starlin Castro, 19, who had a red-hot Arizona Fall League, will also get a look in spring training. While it's unlikely he'll get a major league roster spot in April, he can do a lot to raise his stock with a good showing.

Cubbyhole

• The Cubs' last four first-round picks will be on hand in spring training. Outfielder Tyler Colvin (2006) is a member of the 40-man roster, while third baseman Josh Vitters (2007), righthander Andrew Cashner (2008) and outfielder Brett Jackson (2009) will head to Mesa as non-roster invitees.

• Bobby Scales, 32, also picked up a non-roster invitation. He played 11 seasons in the minors before making his major league debut with the Cubs last year. He played in 51 games for the Cubs and hit .242/.312/.411 with three homers in 124 at-bats.