Emilio Bonifacio is blazing hot
(Photo by Stephen Green)
It’s a leadoff man’s job to set the tone for the offense and get on base. Newcomer Emilio Bonifacio has taken that role to heart and started the season at a record-setting pace.
The 28-year-old became the first player in National League history to record nine hits in the first two games of a season. But he didn’t stop there. Through the first nine games, he recorded 19 hits, batted better than .450 and scored nine runs—or nearly one-third of the team’s total. The sample size is still very small, but when your leadoff man is getting on base at a .500 clip, something is going very right.
“I try to select good pitches,” Bonifacio said. “I try to swing at a strike in the zone, and I have [had] good results.”
After being released by the Royals prior to Spring Training, Bonifacio signed with the Cubs as a nonroster invitee. But after a solid preseason, the veteran played his way onto the major league squad.
His defensive versatility has made him very valuable to a platoon-oriented team. Depending on the pitcher, Bonifacio has gotten starts in both center field and at second base.
“He gives you the flexibility to be able to play so many different positions,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. “I could play him in probably every outfield position and any infield position from second all the way through third base. I haven’t used him at first, but I’m sure if you said, “Can you put this [first-base glove] on?” he’d go over there.”
He’s also the first true leadoff man the Cubs have had in years. In the first three series, he swiped seven bases. That speed should be a huge boost to a lineup that stole only 63 bags last season, 13th in the National League.
“It’s been really good to have that feeling, especially with a new team and being in the leadoff spot,” Bonifacio said. “That’s the job—to try to get on base. Hopefully I can keep doing it like that.”