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Clevenger strengthening grip on roster spot

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Clevenger strengthening grip on roster spot play video for Clevenger strengthening grip on roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs may not finalize their bench until Sunday, the day before the regular season begins, but it appears Steve Clevenger has the edge for that last spot.

Clevenger, who made the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, entered Monday batting .395 this spring and .526 (10-for-19) in his last 11 games. A left-handed hitter, he's also 7-for-13 off southpaws this spring.

"He had a rough time the last three months of last season and struggled at a little bit of everything and came into Spring Training in the best shape he's ever been in and worked extremely hard at the infield," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Clevenger, who can sub at first or third if needed.

"You can't take away that the guy has swung the bat better than anybody in camp," Sveum said. "The guy's always hit. [On Sunday], he took a [96 mph fastball] and hit it off the center-field wall. The other day, he gets 0-2 and lines a ball through the six-hole. The guy's a big league hitter."

Clevenger scuffled in the second half last season with the Cubs and was unable to make adjustments at the plate. He's wiped the slate clean this year.

The Cubs are looking at the waiver wire for other options but Sveum has made it clear he wants a left-handed bat for the bench. The other position player in camp still in contention is infielder Alberto Gonzalez, a right-handed hitter.

Sveum does like the makeup of the reserves, which include versatile Brent Lillibridge, Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt and Dioner Navarro.

"We have guys who don't strike out on the bench, we've got guys who put the ball in play, guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark -- they're two-way players," Sveum said. "If Clevenger makes the team, you can pinch-hit for Navarro, pinch-hit for [Welington] Castillo. If Castillo is playing, you can use Navarro and Clevenger as pinch-hitters. It's a very versatile bench and for a National League team, it's nice for me to have all that kind of versatility."

The truck leaves Wednesday for Chicago.

"Hopefully, we get it done soon, but it could be Sunday," Sveum said.

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.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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