VIERA, Fla. -The battle for the backup infield positions will likely continue for another couple of weeks, but it's hard not to like what Alex Cora and Brian Bixler are doing down here.
Cora's been on base nine of his 16 plate appearances, and Bixler is hitting .533 in 19 plate appearances. Bixler is also slugging 1.067, with three doubles, a triple, a home run, and fine RBIs.
Historically, neither player has come anywhere near those numbers previously. Cora is 35 years old, a .244 career hitter with . 311 on base percentage. Bixler is 28, and a .178 career hitter, though he's had springs like this before in the Pirates' organization. Both men are middle infielders, and in camp as non-roster invitees. The incumbent utility infielder, Alberto Gonzalez, has also had a decent spring, batting .333 entering tonight's game.
So, what's going to be the deciding factor? If it's pure experience, Cora gets it, hands down. He's been in the big leagues since 1998, has played in four postseasons and has seen time at all four infield spots and left field, though he's principally a middle infielder.
If it's youth, Gonzalez is a year younger than Bixler, and about eight years younger than Cora. He was known to be unhappy about his amount of playing time last year, though only five RBIs in 186 at-bats almost speaks for itself.
In the final analysis, I suspect Cora will get the gig. His experience on winning ballclubs is an intangible the others can't match. He's got history with Jim Riggleman with the Dodgers. He's accustomed to coming off the bench and doesn't grouse about it.
There are still 20 days before the opener and things can change quickly down here, so please, no wagering.