Wednesday, September 5, 2012
All that pitching catches Cubs in a bind
By Doug Padilla
WASHINGTON -- If you think the Chicago Cubs have used a lot of pitchers this year, just try to be the guys in charge of keeping all their pitches straight.
Welington Castillo and fellow catcher Steve Clevenger have had to get to know a lot of new pitchers this season.
Cubs catchers rookie Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo have had their hands full just learning life in the big leagues. Now there is the revolving door on the mound providing possibly the biggest test of all.
The Cubs have used 29 pitchers in 2012 crushing the previous high of 25 pitchers used in a single season. Two more pitchers -- Jaye Chapman and Miguel Socolovich -- made their season debuts Tuesday.
“I think they have done a good job and are getting better at it,” manager Dale Sveum said. “(Castillo) has made huge strides in the last month in calling games and sticking to gameplans, as well as Clevenger who has been pretty good all year with it. It’s new to them.”
Counting Wednesday night’s game, Castillo and Clevenger have combined to see 90 games of action this season.
“This kind of grind, this kind of pressure of calling a game at the big league level isn’t the easiest thing and they have been thrown into the fire the last few months,” Sveum said.
Clevenger said the hard part is serving as pitch caller and prime motivator for so many different faces. But he downplayed the difficulty of keeping it all in order.
“As long as you get together before the game during batting practice, talk and see what they like to do, we’re going to go with their strengths,” Clevenger said. “You’re going to pitch to their strengths and not get away from them.”
Those get-to-know-you chats are all on the pitchers and catchers. There isn’t a set time during the day to go over that part of the game plan together so it’s incumbent on the battery to get together often.
“These are the guys we’re going to go with for the rest of the year so the more comfortable I can make them, the more comfortable they are throwing to me, the better off we are,” Clevenger said. “It’s getting together and being prepared going into the game and not doing it when we’re in the game.”
Adding to the challenge is that the Cubs have eight rookie pitchers on the roster, seven of whom pitched in Tuesday night’s game.
“There is no question that the more bodies you have the more issues you can have with the catchers not knowing what they throw, not knowing their velocities, not knowing their out pitches, how good their out pitch is,” Sveum said. “It might be an OK out pitch in Triple-A but it doesn’t play here. So yeah it brings up a lot of issues to have to get to know people and know how they handle situations and all that. It’s trying in a lot of ways to go through that many pitchers.”