Catcher a big question for Cubs in 2013
February, 13, 2013
By Jesse Rogers
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinWelington Castillo, left, showed potential offensively last season but needs work calling a game.MESA, Ariz. -- What about the catching?
Ok, it's not exactly what Harry Caray used to say but it applies to the Chicago Cubs in 2013. An under-discussed topic of the offseason will take center stage in spring training as the Cubs try to find a legitimate starting catcher.
Geovany Soto, traded to the Texas Rangers in July, is long gone which leaves the job to holdovers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger along with newcomer Dioner Navarro. Three catchers for two spots.
"Everybody wants to be here but not everyone is going to make the team," Castillo said on Wednesday.
Castillo is the odds-on favorite to start with Navarro backing him up, but nothing is certain.
"We have a pretty good idea what's going to happen, but you never know," Navarro said. "The ball is round and it comes in a square box. You never know. I'm just going to be here to do a good job."
Navarro is only 28, but the Cubs are his fifth team. An All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, Navarro is known for calling a good game but is a career .245 hitter with a .306 on-base percentage. And he played in just 24 games for the Cincinnati Reds last season.
"Who doesn't want to play for the Cubs?" Navarro said. "I thought this was my best chance to re-establish myself back into the big leagues."
He'll push Castillo, who showed flashes at the plate after Soto was traded last season. His on-base percentage in August was .344 and .390 in September. He also has some untapped power but it's calling a game that he'll be judged on the most.
"I need to watch more video," he said. "Start to know more of the style of the pitchers. That will come with more playing time."
Castillo, 25, has been in the Cubs organization for eight years after signing as an undrafted free agent, and this is his chance to prove he belongs.
"We all are here to do our job," Castillo said. "They are going to make the decision so we can't worry about it."
The odd man out in the group could be Clevenger. Given some time last year he was solid defensively but batted just just .201 with one home run in 199 at-bats.
"It's a challenge," Clevenger said. "Wellington and Navarro are great guys. I definitely want to make the team out of spring training, so I'm going to work as hard as I can to do that."
The three catchers, who locker next to each other, know what's at stake. Castillo wants to start, Navarro wants to push Castillo and Clevenger somehow wants to make the team.
"I wish (Castillo) the best, but at the end of the day it's a competition," Clevenger said. "But I am rooting for him. ... I try not to associate myself with people that root against other people."
Castillo added about Navarro: "He's been great. He told me I'm here to learn from you and you from me. Let's talk."
All three talked of seeing the Cubs win more games. As the new guy, Navarro has no interest in losing 101 games as the Cubs did in 2012.
"I think I got a really good history of going to bad teams and trying to turn it around a little bit," he said. "I guess that's going to be one of my goals this year."