4/6/2013 11:34 P.M. ET
Sveum has been shifty with Cubs' defense
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- If you've watched the Cubs' first four games, you must have noticed all of the defensive shifts they've used. There have been times when third baseman Luis Valbuena is positioned between the second baseman and shortstop Starlin Castro as the infielders shift to the right.
"I think we just happen to play a couple teams that are no-brainers, so to speak, when it comes to that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the infielders' movement. "There's less than a one or two-percent [chance] of balls hit to the opposite side."
Cubs third base coach David Bell positions the infielders while first base coach Dave McKay handles the outfielders. Their charts break down players' averages when there are no runners on, when there are two strikes, when they have runners in scoring position, and when there are two outs.
On Friday, the Cubs overloaded on the right side against Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, but he poked a single to left. Sveum was OK with that.
"If you're going to get beat one percent of the time, and you take away 99 percent of his hits on the ground -- [that's why you shift]," Sveum said.
Rizzo, like team, searching for success at plate
ATLANTA -- After four games, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had one hit, and that was a home run in his first at-bat of the season on the first pitch.
Since then, he had gone 0-for-11, entering Saturday's game against the Braves. He wasn't alone. The Cubs were batting .133 as a team before Saturday.
"That's baseball," Rizzo said. "It's four games. Hitting is contagious. Once someone gets going, I'm sure everyone will get going.
"It's four games out of 162," he said. "I'm sure guys will go and have worse stretches than this in their careers over time. This is baseball. We're due for an explosive day."
The Cubs did just that on Saturday, pounding 13 hits off the Braves in a 6-5 loss. Rizzo picked up his second hit and second home run in the fifth inning, and also singled with one out in the seventh.
However, Cubs manager Dale Sveum did see something else in Rizzo's approach. The first baseman may be thinking too much.
"I said it early in camp, when somebody asked about the adjustments he has to make and what he has to get better at," Sveum said Saturday. "I think what he's doing now is what he did in that one stretch where he struggled [last year]. He starts analyzing and thinking too much about what the pitcher is going to do to him, instead of getting a good pitch to hit and being ready to do that instead of always trying to guess along with each pitch."
On Friday, Rizzo struck out three times, and all three were on off-speed pitches.
"They're hitting their spots, pitchers are making their pitches," Rizzo said. "You tip your hat. Our job is to hit the ball over the middle of the plate, not their best pitch."
Rizzo, who batted .285 in 87 games last season after he was called up in late June, said it's encouraging that the team is 2-2, considering the offensive struggles.
"If our pitching stays the way it is now, the bats will come around," Rizzo said. "You get hot streaks, cold spells. To be 2-2 is good, and we have to take advantage of our record now and our pitching and score some runs.
"Obviously, as a team, we'd like to be getting more hits, more situational hits," he said. "We can hit .200 as a team, but if we get those big hits ... I'm pretty sure that's how the A's did it last year, they had big hits at big times."
Cubs narrow list of potential Draft picks
ATLANTA -- The Cubs have narrowed the list of players they're looking at for the upcoming First-Year Player Draft to a half-dozen, and spent this week working out Georgia high school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier.
The Cubs have the second pick overall in the Draft, to be held June 6-8.
Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, watched Meadows and Frazier, and then flew to California to scout Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who struck out seven over 8 2/3 innings against USC.
Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and player development and scouting director Jason McLeod all watched the two outfielders. Meadows, who is prepping at Grayson (Ga.) High School, has speed, an outstanding arm and good bat. Frazier, who is starring at Loganville (Ga.) High School, is similar to Meadows, except he's slightly smaller. Frazier is 6-foot-1, 190; Meadows is 6-3, 200.
Appel ranks first among MLB.com's Draft prospects list, while Meadows ranks third and Frazier is fifth.
• Ian Stewart, on the disabled list with a strained left quad, was the designated hitter in a game at the Cubs' extended Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday, and could be a few weeks away from rejoining the team.
Stewart, injured Feb. 21 during an intrasquad game, was able to run at 80-90 percent on Friday, and is making progress. He has yet to play in the field in a game.
Sveum said if all goes well, Stewart could be ready in two to three weeks.
• Second baseman Darwin Barney, on the disabled list with a left knee laceration, was able to take batting practice on Saturday. He had five stitches in his knee because of the cut, and was expected to get the stitches out this week.
• Matt Garza, on the disabled list with a strained left lat, was to throw his second bullpen session on Sunday. Garza threw 25 pitches on Thursday in Arizona, and has had no problems since the workout. He's expected to return in May.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.