Stiff back keeps LaHair sidelined

Stiff back keeps LaHair sidelined

Stiff back keeps LaHair sidelined
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair has not played for two days because his back tightened up, possibly from his long commute in Arizona, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

"He said, 'I could've played today,'" Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. "Backs are like that."

LaHair, who is batting .295 this spring with no home runs, was in the early lineup posted on Saturday for Sunday's game against the Angels in Tempe. But on Sunday, Blake DeWitt started at first base and LaHair received treatment for his back. What happened?

"I don't know," LaHair said on Sunday in Mesa, Ariz. "I have a [one]-hour ride to the field and back every day, and sitting in that one position, it tightened up a little bit. It's no big deal."

LaHair said he hoped to play on Monday or Tuesday, when the Cubs will play their final Cactus League games in Arizona. He expected to be ready for the season opener on Thursday against the Nationals at Wrigley Field.

The first baseman, who belted 38 home runs last year for Triple-A Iowa, has yet to connect this spring. Sveum said he wasn't worried about LaHair's performance.

"People forget that home runs come in bunches, and you need 600 at-bats to hit 25 to 35 home runs," Sveum said. "He's hitting plenty of balls off the wall. The day he went down [to the Minor League camp] and got seven at-bats, he hit three balls off the wall. Home runs aren't as important to drive runs in as slugging percentage is. Slugging percentage is the key."

So far, LaHair has seven doubles and a .410 slugging percentage this spring.