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Monday, March 5, 2012
Castillo advances in bunt contest

By Doug Padilla

MESA, Ariz. -- Days after being anointed the favorite among the final 16 participants in the Cubs' bunt tournament, minor-league catcher Steve Clevenger was eliminated.

With guys like Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood knocked out, both by Dale Sveum, the new Cubs manager anointed his young catcher as the guy to beat. Instead Welington Castillo moved into the quarterfinals Monday along with Jeff Beliveau, Casey Coleman and Adrian Cardenas.

Four more Sweet 16 matchups are set for Tuesday. The championship match is scheduled for March 16.

Sveum has a match upcoming against Paul Maholm in the pitchers' bracket, while Jeff Samardzija takes on Randy Wells. In the position players' bracket, Joe Mather will take on Starlin Castro, while Jeff Baker takes on David DeJesus.

It was Sveum himself that called Clevenger the best of the remaining bunters, while making himself a No. 2 seed. Wells and Coleman also appear to be the class of the remaining participants.

On this past weekend's edition of Talkin' Baseball on ESPN 1000, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein weighed in on the bunt tournament.

“It accomplishes a lot of different things at the same time," Epstein said of the event invented by Sveum when he was a minor-league manager in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. “And it's significant that it's a bunting contest because that's about as fundamentally important and simple as you can get. That's something we need to get better at so we're practicing technique and rewarding players for doing the right thing."