Cubs' Clevenger showing vast potential

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
7:08
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Cubs’ catching core of Geovany Soto, Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo have created a pleasant problem for the team’s front office, which would like to add an influx of young talent at the trade deadline.

Soto, formerly the team’s backstop of the future, has had a rash of groin and knee issues the past couple seasons. Still, as a capable defensive player who has shown power in the past, Soto could be an attractive player to a playoff contender before the July 31 deadline . Keep in mind that, Soto is still just 29, but the free-agent clock is ticking on Soto, who is making $4.3 million in 2012 and can become a free agent after the 2013 season.

The Cubs’ willingness to move Soto depends on how comfortable Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are with Clevenger and Castillo. Former General manager Jim Hendry turned down a trade offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Soto last July. Hendry, working as a lame duck exec, didn’t think it was fair to the organization to make such a franchise-altering move.

Soto has had a rough start to the season offensively, hitting just .180 in 119 at bats with five home runs and 9 RBIs.

As for Clevenger, his skill set is still evolving. He has shown flashes like his first major league home run in the Cubs’ win over the Astros on Friday.

“(His strength ) is catching and calling a game as much as anything,” said manger Dale Sveum. “He is a left-hand hitter that is going to put the bat on the ball and it was nice he got his first home run.”

Clevenger is a grinder who does not blow you away with any one skill. When you add up the whole package, however, it seems to scream big league starting catcher.

“He has caught me four or five times, so I think it is getting to where he understands how I pitch,” Maholm said. “Whenever a starter has confidence in a catcher, it goes a long way.”

The young Cub catcher keeps his mind on doing the job rather than thinking about playing time.

“You just go out and do your job by doing your pregame work and do everything you are suppose to do,” said Clevenger. “When Dale puts you in the lineup, you just do what you got to do. Other than that, I try not to focus on whether I am in the lineup or not, I have a job to do when Dale puts me in.”

Although Castillo has the bigger power and the rocket arm, Clevenger calls a much better game behind the plate. The question for Hoyer and Epstein is do both young receivers bring enough to the table to replace Soto?

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Emilio Bonifacio
BA HR RBI R
.358 0 2 11
OTHER LEADERS
HRW. Castillo 3
RBIS. Castro 9
RE. Bonifacio 11
OPSA. Rizzo .914
WJ. Hammel 2
ERAJ. Samardzija 1.29
SOJ. Samardzija 22