Villanueva homers twice in Cubs debut

Former Ranger goes deep in first two at-bats of Daytona win

By Sam Dykstra / Special to | August 2, 2012 10:31 PM ET

Maybe the Cubs organization got Christian Villanueva at the right time, or perhaps Villanueva joined the Cubs at just the right moment.

Either way, both sides seem plenty pleased to have one another after their first acquaintance.

Villanueva homered in his first two bats for Class A Advanced Daytona on Thursday night in the Cubs' 8-2 win over Fort Myers at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.

The game, which was Daytona's fifth win in a row and seventh in its last eight, was his first with the club since being sent from the Rangers to the Cubs organization as part of the deal that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas.

The 21-year-old third baseman admitted he wasn't particularly trying to impress his new bosses.

"I didn't expect anything like that to happen," Villanueva said. "I was just trying to do my best here. I was happy to have new teammates and be part of this organization, and I wanted to do well for them."

The Mexico native did just that on the third pitch he saw. With nobody on and two outs in the bottom of the first inning, he drove a 2-0 fastball from Miracle starter Pat Dean over the wall with his first swing in his new home.

He didn't have to wait much longer for his second blast. Two innings later, Villanueva parked a first-pitch changeup from Dean deep as well, giving the Cubs back-to-back shots on consecutive pitches after Ronald Torreyes homered in the previous at-bat.

The newly anointed Cubs' No. 6 prospect joined his new team just days being named Carolina League Player of the Week with Rangers' Class A Advanced affiliate Myrtle Beach. For the week ending on July 29 -- his last game with the Pelicans -- Villanueva was 14-for-25 (.560) with two homers, a double and 11 RBIs in seven games.

That caught the attention of his new organization, which apparently felt good enough about Villanueva's abilities to bat him third in the lineup.

"I looked at the last 10 games and saw he was swinging the bat really well," said Daytona hitting coach Desi Wilson. "Then I got some video tape from some of our scouts this morning and saw he had some good hands, some good power. ... The way the ball jumps off the bat, the way he plays defense, you couldn't help but think, 'Wow.'"

Villanueva, who batted just .251 in the first half vs. his current .353 average in the second half, added that he saw a resurgence after he took his eyes off his numbers and focused more on his mechanics.

"I was looking at my stats a lot and trying to make too many adjustments," he said. "I was in a new league and trying too hard. ... Then I was working hard, and my family was pushing me. I don't know. I think working harder had something to do with it. I tried to enjoy the game more too and don't worry about the stats so much."

Now the former Ranger, who admits he was initially distraught by the trade but has since warmed to the move, has a new league to conquer, and the early returns have been excellent.

"We just plugged him in, and he didn't skip a beat," Wilson said. "He hadn't done anything to make him really stand out as the new guy. We're certainly glad he's with us and in our organization now."

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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