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We haven’t seen much of the other two back-up catcher candidates, Welington Castillo and Max Ramirez, in recent days; just a steady stream of Geovany Soto, and the guy who is going to be his back-up, Koyie Hill.

A big part of the reason Hill will ultimately “win” the job (inasmuch as someone who puts together perhaps the worst Spring in the history of Springs can “win” anything) is because both Castillo and Ramirez have been battling injuries.

There are still four catchers in camp but the Cubs are expected to break with Geovany Soto and backup Koyie Hill on the final 25-man Opening Day roster. Welington Castillo and Max Ramirez have both been injured. They’re insurance in the final week before the regular season opens April 1.

Castillo has been bothered by a sore right index finger, which limits his ability to throw. He was expected to open at Triple-A Iowa; the Cubs want him to get more experience calling games. Ramirez has battled a sore left wrist and if he does well in batting practice on Sunday, he may get in a game. Muskat Ramblings.

While I don’t agree with the Castillo-needs-to-get-regular-starts justification (he could see plenty of starts in the bigs, and he would get the benefit of working with the ML staff and players – and that’s just viewing the decision from Castillo’s development perspective, not even considering the upgrade he represents over Hill), I understand it. He can be optioned to Iowa – and returned at any time – with little harm being done.

As for Ramirez, the injury, and the attending decision not to carry him, are a bit more problematic. The Cubs picked up Ramirez off waivers, and my understanding – readers, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong – is that if he doesn’t make the Cubs’ 25-man roster out of camp, he will have to pass through waivers once again for the Cubs to send him to Iowa. Given, for example, the Astros’ desperate state at catcher, it’s hard to see him making it through.

And, of course, even if Ramirez does make it to Iowa, he and Castillo will have to split starts. One of them will not get “regular” work behind the plate, thus blowing up the primary justification for not carrying one of them as the back-up on the big team. I know this is devolving into a little bit of verbal diarrhea, but I’m annoyed. If the decision was truly derailed by the injuries to Castillo and Ramirez, then the situation sucks.

But I suspect that Hill was always going to be the guy.

  • Jeff

    You are correct Ace, Ramirez is out of options and has to clear waivers before he can report to the minors. My thinking is that this was the reason he was still around in the first place, Hendry hoping someone saw enough of him to consider trading for him instead of relying on the unpredictable waiver process.

    The timing of the injuries suck, but I think you’re right on that account too, Koyie Hill has had his job nailed down for some time now, and even the ridiculous spring that Castillo has had at the plate was never going to change that.

  • Michigan Goat

    I’ve been reading this site since 2009 (btw Ace it really is the best) but never commented, now I can’t remain silent. They way I see tithe Cubs have only one responsible way to handle the catcher “issue.”. First DFA Hill we all now why no reason to repeat. Second, send Castillo to Iowa (I’ll explain in a second). Finally, give Max the backup job.

    Why Max over Castillo? Because it is the only way we get to retain both. With teams needing always needing catchers having three MLB caliber catchers gives the Cubs some real trading power, why lose Max to waivers when you can trade him for something, right?

    I also wonder if we should consider Soto or Castillo for first base next year vs. spending everything on pooh-hole or prince. Not sure what their background is or when they played the field last, but I hope they are at least considering it… I think Soto would become an even sharper hitter if he didn’t have to spend time thinking about pitchers and dealing with the toll catching has on the body.

    • Cheryl

      I agree with much of what Michigan Goat says. Give Max the backup job. Putting the questionable defense and offense in the hands of Hill would be a mistake. It would undo the message sent biy the release of Silva, that achievement should be rewarded. Castillo would be better off putting some time in at Iowa before coming up to the Majors. I understand he has less than 100 games there.

      Hill may be a person who gets on well with his teammates and is respected, but this spring no one can argue that he performed well. Ramirez can be a bat off the bench too. Michigan mentions having Sota play first. I dont think that would work because he may be prone to injuries (Others have mentioned this. I’m not sure about it.) However, could Ramirez play first? I don’t know. But Hill may be a good coach within the Cubs system. His fellow players may like him, but is it fair to have resentment build because he can’t hit?

      • Michigan Goat

        If Soto is prone to injury then keeping him as a catcher is a recipie for disaster, this may have already been discussed within the organization and they’ve determined he can’t handle the field and I yes good hitting catching is a blessing, but if Castillo is the real deal we should find a way to use them both or move one of them for a corner the infielders we will need next year

    • Ace

      Thanks for the compliment, Goat (which sentence immediately makes me think of an old Adam Sandler routine), and obviously I agree on all counts. I have to wonder if maybe Ramirez’s wrist is too messed up right now to make it happen, though. If he can’t play at all, then it’s gotta be Hill or Castillo. Castillo is my preference by far, but I keep wondering if maybe some of the pitchers have made it known that they really, really want Hill around.

      • Jeff

        I always thought for some reason that Hill was someone’s personal catcher and that’s why he seems to be around, but from looking at his starts the last couple of years, he doesn’t really catch any one pitcher more than any of the others.

        I don’t like the move of Soto to first simply because I think Soto calls a very good game behind the plate and controls the staff well. His offense is gravy, and when he’s not slumping or injured, he’s one of the best hitting catchers around, but he would only be an average hitting first baseman at best. I don’t like the concept of filling one hole by digging another, and as much as I like Castillo, he’s no Soto. Though the way Castillo was swinging the bat this spring, I’d like to see the Cubs find at bats for him however they can, first base included.

  • Cubster222

    Hill should only be allowed to catch for Big Z that way we at least get to recover some of his offense when Z pokes one into the bleachers. I think we should be working on Castillo for taking over 3b next year and if we don’t sign a ‘big name’ FA push Rami over to 1st.

    • Ace

      Appreciate thinking outside the box, but I haven’t seen any indication that Castillo could play third. I think Vitters is still the long-term hope there.

    • Cubster222

      provided of course the aram has a comeback year…
      Then we’re looking at a lineup next year with Jackson, Colvin, Castro, Rami, Soto, Sorri, Castillo, Barney….

  • Art

    I think the “pitchers like throwing to Hill” is overplayed. remember they said the same think about Soto when he first came up. before that they liked Kendall. what else can they say when asked about a catcher? they never said they preferred throwing to Hill, I’m sure he’s not a gold glove catcher with a Bench arm or head. he’s not that good that you can carry his weak bat. that’s just my thinking.

    as for Castillo, if Jake and Soriano can play LF, anyone can for a game or 2, 3B, and 1B would other positions he could play for a game.

  • http://bleachernation.com ramy16

    NOOOOO…I CANT STAND Koyie Hill! i think the cubs should send his ass to iowa! he needs to learn how to hit!!! keep ramirez as the back up…he can hit…i know the injury bug as hit him…quade needs to open up his eyes..koyie hill is not the answer…also we could use a back up 3rd baseman for ramy!

  • Jeff

    I wonder if it would be possible to put Ramirez on the 15 day DL to start the year and send him for a rehab assignment for a couple of games, giving the Cubs an extra couple of weeks to work out some kind of trade.

    • Ace

      Very interesting thought, though he pinch hit today, so he might not be all that hurt anymore.

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