steve clevengerWith Ian Stewart beginning the season on the disabled list (and potentially not back until May), there’s been an “extra” 25th man job available on the Chicago Cubs’ roster this Spring. As the team whittled things down, catcher Steve Clevenger emerged as a legitimate candidate to break camp with the team, despite the heathy presence of starting catcher Welington Castillo and back-up catcher Dioner Navarro.

Clevenger has been helped by his positional versatility – he can play first base, as well as third, second and the corner outfield spots in an extreme pinch – and his left-handed bat. Of course, you’d have to think his .201/.260/.276 line over 215 plate appearances last year would be working against him.

Still, Dale Sveum says Clevenger is going to be the guy, absent a waiver pick-up (which is either a nudge to Theo and Jed, or a mere caveat, acknowledging the fact that Theo and Jed are busy waiver beavers).

“He had a rough time the last three months of last season, and struggled at a little bit of everything, and came into Spring Training in the best shape he’s ever been in and worked extremely hard at the infield,” Sveum said of Clevenger, per Carrie Muskat.

“You can’t take away that the guy has swung the bat better than anybody in camp. The guy’s always hit. [On Sunday], he took a [96 mph fastball] and hit it off the center field wall. The other day, he gets 0-2, and lines a ball through the six hole. The guy’s a big league hitter.”

That’s as high as Spring praise gets.

I’ll defer to Sveum, given that he’s a big-time hitting coach in addition to being the manager, and given that he sees Clevenger in person every day, but I remain skeptical about Clevenger’s hitting ability in the bigs after what we saw last year. (Yes, yes, oblique injury.) When Clevenger started the season hot, Sveum said that he had a “slump-proof bat.” And then he slumped for months.

I’m certainly hopeful that Clevenger emerges as a nice utility piece and lefty bat off the bench – each of which are hugely valuable – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs pick someone up this week as rosters across baseball turnover.

Long-term, I do like the idea of a Clevenger-type player on the roster (utility, plus the ability to catch, and hits lefty), especially when the Cubs are actually competitive. This year, though, I wonder if it’s better to have him catching, and batting, regularly at Iowa.

Ultimately, the 25th man isn’t going to make or break the 2013 Cubs, and being on the bench in the bigs versus catching in the minors isn’t going to make or break Clevenger’s career. So, yeah, if no better waiver option presents itself, Clevenger as the 25th man is just fine.

  • Fishin Phil

    Your last paragraph is the key. Having said that, Go Steve!!

  • Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

    So after last season, the front office learned their lesson and followed my ST roster construction suggestions to the letter. Not letting me bank up a lot in the IToldYouSo futures market.

    • MightyBear

      What’s the over/under on name changes? I think Mr. Know It All just hit the over.

    • hansman1982

      (or maybe the FO isn’t as inept as some believe)

      • Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

        I don’t know if inept is the right word. Misguided?

        • farmerjon

          How does one “know it all” and then lead with , “i don’t know”….; )

          • hansman1982

            He has become self-aware.

            • Cubbie Blues

              I always knew this day would come.

          • Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

            It’s a name, not a description. Brett Taylor doesn’t really sew clothes for a living.

            • Misuser use of Hyperbelanalogy (BluBlud)

              You mean kind of like this. I get it now.

              • MichiganGoat

                BluBud did you use my newspeak word?

                • Misuser use of Hyperbelanalogy (BluBlud)

                  Yes MG, you are my inspiration.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    Ah shucks… glad to see you embrace the fun

                    • Misuser use of Hyperbelanalogy (BluBlud)

                      I always do. I think people here take me more serious then I take myself. I guess the typed text plays a role in that. I’m really nothing more then a big jokester. Kind of hard to offend me.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      “Kind of hard to offend me.”

                      The challenge has been set. 😛

                    • MichiganGoat

                      just need to wait for Brett to give us our marching orders

                    • Misuser use of Hyperbelanalogy (BluBlud)

                      Oh man, I’m shaking in my Nike ACG Boots. :)

            • sclem21

              (Sean Clement) I am not half of a tiny orange fruit…yet.

  • MightyBear

    “The best shape of his life” – Where’s DB Kyle? How many times have we heard that one? I actually like Clevenger and hope he does well.

    • CubFan Paul

      I like Clevenger’s bat. He should come off the bench for 3B and 2B if Valbuena and Barney turn out to be: Valbuena and Barney.

  • CubFan Paul

    Clevenger is nice but a left handed Brent Lillibridge type from the waiver wire would be nice to add to the right handed version, Sappelt, Hairston, & Navarro.

  • mak

    Clevenger is most valuable in allowing Navarro to come off the bench. I think he’s about the best they can do, almost definitely better than some retread like Figgins coming off the wire.

  • Cedlandrum

    I’ve been beating this drum for a long time, but the hitter Clevenger was at the end of last year is not the hitter I have seen in the past. He can swing it. I do think you are right though Brett that he may be better served playing everyday. The flip side of that is that he is probably at best a bench guy, so why not get him suited for that role which is completely difficult in a year where expectations are low.

    • CubFan Paul

      Nothing wrong with creating a utility man. Jeff Bakers have value.

  • cjdubbya

    I heart Steve Clevenger because he signed a ball for me yesterday.

  • The Dude Abides

    “Ultimately, the 25th man isn’t going to make or break the 2013 Cubs”

    Do doubt – that would be hitters 1 – 8 in our daily batting order…

  • Jim

    Because of his bat, I would almost rather see Clevenger start at 3B over Valbuena. I have not been able to see how Steve’s D is over there, but I definitely think he swings a much better bat than Valbuena. Can anyone comment on his defense there?

  • King Jeff

    Just a note, Clevenger was a shorstop when he was drafted by the Cubs. If he can get some consistency with the bat, he will be a valuable bench/role player. But if he hits like he did after his injury last year, he’s no better than the other options being considered now.

  • jeff

    I’ve watched Steve play with regularity for the past 4 season from AA up and do believe his bat is MLB caliber. Steve will never win a gold glove in the infield but he isn’t Josh Vitters out there either. He always had a knack for coming up with key hits late in games. He’s smart, coachable, works hard, and is a great teammate. I’ll sing his praises and hope he makes the last roster spot because his versatility would be a welcome addition to the club along with solid left handed bat.

  • Dustin S

    I think the article pretty much summed up my thoughts on him too. He has looked great while hitting this spring and has been impressive taking breaking balls to left. But we all know to take the hits now with a grain of salt. In a few days we’ll be a lot more focused on 1-8 and the rotation. They should call the last week of spring training 25th man week.

  • Doctor_Blair

    Hopefully he worked hard over the winter. It would be nice if he works out…

    That said, the picture above makes me wonder if he hasn’t been dipping into Tim Lincecum’s stash!

  • NCMoss

    Maybe a part of the reason Clevenger didn’t make adjustments is that Sveum DID call his bat “slump-proof”.

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