I was thinking about Nicky Punto today. Mostly because I was wearing the shoes I compared him to on Nick Punto Day last year. I was thinking I should get rid of those shoes -- they are wearing out, -- but the shoes I was going to replace them with broke. Literally broke. In half. Both of them.You can't get good replacements these days.
Which is also true of utility players, I guess. Although I'm not aware of the current crop of potential bench-infielders to have literally broken in half. That would be unfortunate. But I digress.
I loved Nick Punto as a utility guy. Yeah, I didn't love that he was making $4.5 million to be a utility guy. But that role was perfect for him. But he's a Cardinal now. A Cardinal with a hernia.
So, who will be the bench infielder for Gardy this year? Take your pick of Matt "Tigger" Tolbert, Trevor "Error-boy" Plouffe, and Luke "Fireworks" Hughes.
Tolbert has the most major league experience, and, when spring training started, was the one everyone figured would come north. I call him "Tigger" because he's one of those guys who never stops bouncing around; seriously, have you ever seen him chew gum? It's cute for about ten minutes, then it's trying. I have a feeling Gardy feels the same way too. According to LaVelle E Neal of the STrib, he's still got a minor-league option left, so he's not completely a shoo-in. But he is reasonably fast and can pinch run whenever Jim Thome gets on base late in games.
Plouffe wasn't really impressive the few games he did spend in the major leagues (.146 BA! Yikes!). And he's been having a horrible spring. He's committed a team-leading 6 errors. And many of them seem to happen when Joe Nathan is on the mound. Not cool, Trev. Not cool at all. It's really hard to have a ton of confidence in him.
And then we have Hughes. When spring training started, he was just one of the lucky minor-leaguers who was invited to the big league camp. No one really expected him to do much more than get some experience. But he had different ideas. Seems like he hits a home run every other at-bat. It might be tempting to bring him up, but I'm not sure he's ready. Plus, he has a history of being injury-prone.
So, yeah, kind of slim pickings. Add to this that I'm not entirely comfortable with the starting middle-infielders. Nishioka will probably be ok, but he's still getting acclimated to MLB. But Gardy handed shortstop -- the position of leadership -- to Alexi Casilla. He could be brilliant; he could be brutal. No one knows. While I hope he'll be ok -- good grief, he's had enough experience by now -- I'm just not confident. I just hope he is.
Ok. So I doubt things are as bleak for the middle infield as I'm making them seem. But I won't be surprised if these guys give me indigestion just a little. I miss Nicky Punto.
And I need new shoes.