Negron hoping versatility leads to Cubs job

Negron hoping versatility leads to Cubs job

MESA, Ariz. -- One of the things manager Joe Maddon is looking for as he puts together his roster is versatile players, and Kristopher Negron definitely showed what he could do last season.

Negron, 30, played everywhere but pitcher and catcher with the Reds. On Monday, he easily switched from first base to third after one inning because Tommy La Stella had to leave the game with right calf soreness. On Tuesday, Negron was starting at second base. Staying healthy is key.

In 2012, Negron was called up to the Reds in June, but sent back to Triple-A when Scott Rolen came off the disabled list. At Triple-A Indianapolis, Negron tried to plant his foot and stop a ball in the gap but he heard his right knee pop. He had torn his ACL, and spent the offseason in Arizona rehabbing.

In 2014, Negron had a terrific Spring Training and was the last player cut by the Reds. He struggled at Triple-A and admits he was upset at not making the big league team. When he was finally called up, Negron went on a roll, batting .271 in 49 games.

Last year, he made the Reds' Opening Day roster but struggled, batting .140. Then he tore the labrum in his left shoulder making a diving catch against the Pirates.

"It's been some tough offseasons in the past couple years, but I feel great now," Negron said.

He spent this past winter rehabbing his shoulder at his home in Napa, Calif. His wife works at a winery there.

"It smells like grapes, it's green, it's perfect," he said of the Napa area.

So far, he's healthy, and ready for whatever the Cubs want him to do.

"That's how I made a name for myself is being able to play everywhere," Negron said. "I'm a natural shortstop. I literally feel comfortable anywhere."

What's his link to the Cubs? Negron was originally drafted by the Red Sox when Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was the general manager there. This year, Negron didn't know where he was going until mid-January, when he signed a Minor League deal with non-roster invite to Spring Training.

"I was just waiting in the offseason and it was kind of nerve wracking," he said. "Coming off the [shoulder] injury, I didn't know what to expect. I'm really excited for the opportunity.

"After watching these guys and playing against them last year and all the energy they had, it looked like they were having an absolute blast," he said. "Once I got the phone call, no doubt in my mind, this was where I wanted to be."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.