Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto finally returns today from a strained oblique, an injury that’s had him out for the better part of a month. Soto, who had just started to hit when he went down with the injury, had a successful rehab stint in the minors.
The Cubs hope he’ll bring his big boy bat back with him because, although Koyie Hill has filled in admirably in the 2008 Rookie of the Year’s place, Soto he is not. As for that Hill admiration:
Hill, who started his 26th straight game behind the plate Wednesday, carried the workload while Soto was away. He’s only the third Cubs catcher in the past 50 years to start more than 25 games in a row, joining Randy Hundley and Jody Davis. Soto is the first to go more than 25 in a row since Davis started 38 straight in 1986.
“He really saved us,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said of Hill. “It’s so out of the norm to catch 25 games in a row. It’s a tremendous effort, he’s a tremendous team player, a mentally tough guy, and we seem to win a lot of ballgames when he catches.”
Hill has been behind the plate for 223 frames since July 7, which is far and away more than any other catcher currently in the Majors. Russell Martin entered Wednesday’s play second about 36 innings — or four games — behind Hill, having caught 189 2/3 innings in a row. cubs.com: News.
The Cubs generally win when Koyie Hill is behind the plate, so obviously he does something right, even if he isn’t much of a hitter.
So as Soto returns, what is the corresponding roster move? Manager Lou Piniella has said he’s not going to go back down to 11 pitchers, so it will be a positional player.
With Reed Johnson still out, it’s hard to imagine Sam Fuld getting the boot, but the other bench players might be harder to imagine. Without an injury, it won’t be Aaron Miles (can he please still be injured?) or Jeff Baker, as they can’t be optioned. Obviously it won’t be Koyie Hill.
So that leaves Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox. It is unfathomable that the Cubs would bump Fox after he’s, you know, been the best hitter on the team when he plays. As for Hoffpauir, his spot isn’t a lock, but he seems more indelibly stuck with the team than does Fuld. If Hoffpauir goes, Fuld becomes the primary backup for the entire outfield, outside of the occasional start for Jake Fox. It also would make Fox the primary backup at first base.
So that said, it seems highly likely to come down to Fuld or Hoffpauir. And even then, once Reed Johnson comes back, they both might be out.
Man oh man is Aaron Miles’ presence frustrating. At least Soto’s back.