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Top prospects provide brief glimpses of promise

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 11:57 p.m. CDT

PEORIA, Ariz. — The Cubs’ Gang of Four was down to one after the first roster cuts of the spring Wednesday at Cubs Park.

Top prospects Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora were among the nine players sent to minor league camp, while Javier Baez will get a longer look, as expected.

Soler was optioned to Double-A Tennessee, while Logan Watkins, Matt Szczur and Arismendy Alcantara were optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

Bryant, Almora, Jeudy Valdez, Eric Jokisch and Carlos Pimentel, all non-roster invitees, were assigned to minor league camp. Their ultimate destinations will be announced later in camp.

Soler, Almora and Bryant obviously are all a big part of the Cubs’ core, and at least manager Rick Renteria got a glimpse — albeit small — of what they can do.

“They have shown their ability to be professionals here,” Renteria said. “... They know there is a purpose and reason for everything that we do.”

Baez, who will begin the season at Iowa, still is scheduled to play some second and third base in Arizona. With Starlin Castro injured, he has played at shortstop for all of his six games this spring.

“We’re planning on doing it Monday or Tuesday,” Renteria said.

Baez said the Cubs will tell him before spring training ends if he also will be moving around the infield at Iowa. He wants to stay at shortstop, but knows he will have to learn all three positions because Castro is not going anywhere soon.

“It’s about the same, just different angles,” Baez said. “It’s easier than playing shortstop. You still have to move about the same as shortstop, just a shorter throw.”

Even though he led all the minors last year with a combined 111 RBIs and 75 extra-base hits, and tied for second with 37 home runs, Baez admits he’s not ready for the jump to the majors.

“Not really,” he said. “Even though a lot of people say I was doing good last year, they were saying that because of the home runs. I can get better. I chased so many balls and I made a lot of errors. I realize I can do better.”

Bryant was 2-for-9 this spring, with both of his hits home runs. He still gets to play this weekend when the Cubs travel to Las Vegas to play a pair of game against the Mets, and is looking forward to going back to his hometown.

“They’re giving me the chance to go there,” he said. “It’ll be cool to see all my family and friends there. I really enjoyed growing up there because I got to play baseball all year long. Getting to play that much made me the player I am today.”

Bryant said he grew up watching the Las Vegas 51s at Cashman Field, but never has played there himself. Instead of staying at home, Bryant said he expects to stay at the team hotel.

“It was fun in high school,” he said. “There were a lot of good shows on the strip,” he said. “But you definitely stay away from all the craziness if you live there.”

Bryant said he’s not a gambler and won’t hit the casinos when he’s in town.

“It’s dangerous there,” he said.

No one in the Cubs’ clubhouse disputed that.

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©2014 Chicago Tribune

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