LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Luis Valbuena, who led the Cubs with 94 starts at third base last season, has been playing strictly second base in the Venezuelan Winter League. That's by design.
"We want him to be versatile, and he is versatile," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "[Darwin] Barney can play shortstop, Valbuena can play some shortstop, Donnie Murphy can play some shortstop. We have a really versatile infield, and that's a great thing. We may not have to carry a standard utility guy and can mix and match in different ways."
Speaking of Barney, Hoyer said he expects the second baseman to have a much better season than he did in 2013.
"It's a big year for him, no matter what," Hoyer said of Barney, who batted .208 this part season. "He had a down year offensively, and he'd be the first person to say that. I don't think it has anything to do with competition among young players. He wants to bounce back and get back to where he was.
"With him, mechanically and approach-wise, he got caught with some things last year," Hoyer said. "A lot of things with him isn't the hard work or the swing, it's the approach."
The team does have a promising second baseman in Arismendy Alcantara, ranked No. 8 among MLB.com's Top 20 Cubs prospects, but he will open the season at Triple-A Iowa, Hoyer 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.