The Cubs have yet to make it official, but a source has confirmed that, yes indeed, Welington Castillo will join the team Saturday in Philadelphia, with Clevenger headed to the disabled list reportedly for a sore side.
Castillo has shown that he is worthy of being in the major leagues already, but the Cubs were in a pickle toward the end of spring training. The experienced Soto, who is making $4.3 million this season, was locked in to being the everyday catcher.
That left the Cubs to decide between Clevenger and Castillo as the backup, a less-than-ideal scenario since both are developing and would be best off playing full-time.
Clevenger ended up winning the job and has shown that he can handle the backup role expertly. He was batting .500 (11-for-22) in five starts and a handful of pinch-hit chances, and is even tied for the team lead in doubles with five. Manager Dale Sveum has praised Clevenger’s ability to hit fastballs and called his left-handed swing “slump proof.”
Clevenger has caught each starter one time and Cubs pitchers have a 1.88 ERA when he is behind the plate, compared to a 5.29 ERA when Soto is catching. Soto has 15 starts this season.
The bind of having two young catchers that need playing time actually couldn’t have worked out perfectly for the Cubs so far.
In a reverse-logic sort of way, the Cubs decision to send Castillo down at the start of the season might have meant they were worried about him most in the current predicament. They made sure he had the everyday playing time to assure that his development wouldn’t be stunted.
He made use of that minor-league time well, batting .320 so far at Triple-A Iowa with a .955 OPS.
Now that he is in the major leagues, though, what plan do the Cubs have now? With Soto batting .135 to start the season, do they do what they didn’t do with Clevenger and make Castillo more than a once- or twice-a-week catcher?
Don’t be surprised to see Castillo thrown directly into the fire when manager Dale Sveum reveals his lineup later Saturday. It isn’t as if Soto has much of a history against Phillies starter Joe Blanton anyway, going hitless in two career at-bats against the right-hander.