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Versatile Valbuena continues to impress

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MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum knows Luis Valbuena can play third base. This spring, the Cubs want to see if Valbuena can play the outfield, second and short, too.

Valbuena was called up to the Cubs from Triple-A Iowa in mid-June last year, and then played in 90 games, taking over at third base for Ian Stewart, who was sidelined after wrist surgery. But Valbuena didn't stop. He played in the Venezuelan winter league, with his first game on Oct. 24, and that season ended in early January after the playoffs.

Then it was time to report to Spring Training.

"I had two, three weeks off after the season," Valbuena said on Friday. "I don't feel tired or anything. I feel great."

He should. Sveum has raved about Valbuena's defensive skills and said this spring that third base is Stewart's job to win. Could Valbuena be the Cubs starting third baseman?

"Like I said, it was [Stewart's] job to win, not to lose," Sveum said. "Things might change, because who knows when Stewart will be back to play. I know Valbuena can play third. He doesn't need to play third to get his at-bats.

"The guy had a good winter ball, and obviously put a good swing on a ball today," Sveum said after Friday's intrasquad game, in which Valbuena hit a two-run home run. "I'm not too concerned about Valbuena. I need to see him everywhere. If things work out that way, then yeah, he'll be playing third base quite a bit. First half of spring, you'll see him a lot more at other positions."

Stewart's status is uncertain after injuring his left quad running the bases on Thursday.

In Venezuela, Valbuena hit .306 with six home runs and 15 doubles in 51 games.

"Everything went well," Valbuena said of his offseason. "I'm focused on hitting this year. I did my routine like I did during the season here. That's what I want to try to do here, too."

It's quite a jump for a player who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays last April 4.

"I feel great because [Sveum] wanted me to be here," Valbuena said. "That's why I worked 100 percent more. Every pitch, every at-bat for me was very important."

Even though he knows he has Sveum's backing, Valbuena isn't going to take it easy. He will likely play second, third and even some outfield.

"I have to keep working," he said.

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