Geovany Soto, whenever his groin relents, will be the Chicago Cubs’ starting catcher in 2012. Who will back him up, however, remains open to debate. After a few years of the Koyie Hill Experience, Cubs fans have learned to be, perhaps, overly interested in the back-up catcher spot.
Then again, given that the back-up catcher, setting aside injuries, plays more than any other back-up on the team, perhaps he merits the kind of extra consideration we give him.
This year, the options for back-up catcher are prospect Welington Castillo, fringier prospect Steve Clevenger, and veteran Jason Jaramillo. Coming into camp, it was a fair guess that Jaramillo, with extensive big league experience, was the favorite. But, after a lingering quad injury kept him out of action (and is still keeping him out of action), Jaramillo is probably far behind the other two competitors.
Castillo, 24, and Clevenger, 25, are ticketed for Iowa if they don’t make the big club. Neither is an obvious future starter at the big league level, though Castillo probably has a hair more upside. If true, the best outcome could be Clevenger settling into a big league back-up role, and Castillo getting regular starts at AAA.
However things shake out, manager Dale Sveum admits it’s going to be a tough decision.
“It’s going to be a tough call for that at the end of spring,” Sveum said Wednesday. “[Castillo and Clevenger are] both doing a great job, they both have things they can contribute. It’s one of those things – who knows what will happen at the end? They’ve both been working as hard as anybody in camp. They’re receiving tremendous, calling games, both can swing the bat a little bit. It’ll be an interesting call at the end of this month.”
As for Jaramillo, Sveum has all but ruled him out of the competition.
“That window is closing, especially with these other two guys doing a good job,” Sveum said of Jaramillo’s chances. “He needs to get on the field to show us what he can do.”
Sveum presumably hopes to have the decision made with a week or so to spare in camp. In some ways, the Soto injury has been a great benefit to Sveum in the decision-making process. He’s had plenty of time to see Castillo and Clevenger.