Cubs catcher remains a work in progress

MILWAUKEE – It looks like not all of the 14 walks given up Friday night were entirely the fault of the Cubs pitchers.

Manager Dale Sveum admitted Saturday that catcher Welington Castillo was reverting back to old habits behind the plate and might not have given the home-plate umpire the best look at some pitches.

Sveum said that ideally the thumb on a catcher’s glove hand is pointing up when he receives a pitch. At the very minimum it might be parallel to the ground. In Castillo’s case Friday night, sometimes he was backhanding pitches with his thumb pointing down.

“A backup slider you don’t want to catch backhanded and take it out of the strike zone,” Sveum said. “You just want your quarter turn where your thumb is up. You don’t want it down, you’ll always take it out of the strike zone.”

The issue illustrates the problem with having a developing player as a part-time player in the major leagues. With inconsistent playing time, Castillo isn’t able to make mechanical changes become routine.

“It’s like anything,” Sveum said. “If you’re changing your mechanics hitting, sometimes it takes, to really get it going. You do it as an infielder if you are completely changing your mechanics. It’s one of those things you have to stay on and not revert to old habits.”

Cubs pitchers were one walk away from tying the franchise high for free passes in a game. That mark was set in the 1960s.

Part of what could have been Castillo’s problem Friday was that in a 13-inning game, survival mode tends to take over. He was behind the plate for 12 innings, moving to first base in the 13th.

“He kind of reverts back sometimes, maybe when the game starts to speed up and you have to catch 200 pitches and you’re trying to figure it out,” Sveum said. “But we have a grip on it and he knows what he was doing and we know what he was doing. It’s not a big concern. It’s a little more of getting comfortable in doing the quarter turn with the hand and do it on a consistent basis.”