PITTSBURGH -- Pirates coach Dave Jauss wasn't surprised to see Cubs rookie Junior Lake catching nearly everything hit his way in the outfield. Jauss is partly responsible for Lake playing there.
This past winter, Jauss was Lake's manager in the Dominican Republic when the then shortstop played for him. The problem was, there wasn't room on Estrellas' roster for Lake to play short. The teams play a 50-game schedule, and Jauss said managers there can be fired in five days rather than five weeks if they don't win.
"Junior was having a great year and was a very talented infielder, but not an accomplished enough infielder to win the game all the time, and especially at shortstop," Jauss said Friday. "The shortstops playing in that league were Miguel Tejada and Hanley Ramirez, and that's quite a difference."
Jauss started Lake as the designated hitter, and he contacted Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer and player development director Jason McLeod to see if he could move the youngster to the outfield. Once he got the go-ahead, Lake played center and left, getting extra lessons from coaches Brian Daubach and Junior Zamora.
"He continued to be as good a player as anybody in the league," Jauss said. "He and [Jean] Segura were up for MVP of the [Dominican] league last year.
"I give all the credit to [Lake] for not balking at moving," Jauss said. "Other than him taking three runs away from us [Thursday] night, I'm glad he did it."
Lake snared Russell Martin's fly ball in left to end the Pirates' fourth on Thursday, stranding two runners. Jauss isn't surprised to see Lake's improvement in the field.
"From the first day out there, you knew he'd be able to play out there," Jauss said.
Thursday was the 50th game of Lake's young career, and he extended his hitting streak to nine games, which matches his career high, also done Aug. 18-26. This is Lake's fourth hitting streak of seven games or more. He is the only active Major Leaguer to begin his career with four separate, standalone hitting streaks of seven games or more in his first 50 games.
Two active players posted a similar feat to Lake's. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in 2001, Ichiro Suzuki began his career with a 23-game hitting streak and a 15-game hitting streak within his first 50 games, which amounts to five stretches of hitting in seven straight games. In 2000, Juan Pierre began his career with a 16-game hitting streak and a 15-game hitting streak within his first 50 games, which amounts to four stretches of hitting in seven straight games.
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.