Cubs catchers will keep pushing Geovany Soto

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Cubs catchers will keep pushing Geovany Soto

PHILADELPHIA Dale Sveum predicted that Welington Castillo will play in All-Star games and make a lot of money in this game.

That was supposed to soften the news that Castillo didnt make the team out of spring training. The Cubs felt like the catcher needed to play every day at Triple-A Iowa to accelerate his development.

But would you rather spend your summer in Des Moines or Chicago?

The Cubs can take a long-range view behind the plate. But they needed a short-term fix on Saturday, when they placed Steve Clevenger on the disabled list with a right oblique strain.

So Castillo who could be the catcher of the future arrived at Citizens Bank Park and found himself in the lineup when Geovany Soto was scratched with upper back tightness.

Castillo, who just turned 25, was hitting .320 with a .955 OPS at Iowa and has a rocket arm that can shut down the running game. The 26-year-old Clevenger has impressed the team with his left-handed bat (11-for-22) and ability to handle the pitching staff.

Soto is making 4.3 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2013. The 29-year-old is playing for a front office thats trying to go young and obtain years of club control.

Do you feel like youre being pushed?

Yeah, absolutely, in a positive way, Soto said. You always (think) the better they get, the better you get. (Ive seen) them since they were in A-ball. Its rewarding to see that theyre doing great.

Its kind of humbling whenever you see those guys come up and be right next to you.

Soto said the back issue is nothing major and indicated that hed be available off the bench. Hes batting .135 with one RBI, though his job is safe for now.

Its too early to worry about production and pushing anybody or anything like that, Sveum said. Geos (still) catching well, so hes doing a lot of other things behind the scenes besides swinging the bat.

His at-bats have been fine. Theres not a lot of results, obviously. (But) sometimes we forget about things like walking and getting to the pitcher and doing things out of the eight spot.

Soto is bilingual and popular within the clubhouse, though he sometimes has trouble staying healthy. He hit .228 with 17 homers and 54 RBI in 125 games last season. He believes hell turn it around.

Its not going to help me to mope around or be down about myself, Soto said. Right now, all we want is to play good baseball and win ballgames, try to build some character for this team.

I know what I can do and right now its early, 50 at-bats into the season. You cant be panicking at this point. Its just putting good at-bats together and (well) see what happens.

Sveum likes to say the media guide doesnt lie, but its hard to project Soto from one year to the next.

The manager acknowledged it has been difficult for Soto to live up to the big expectations created by that Rookie of the Year campaign in 2008 (.285 average with 23 homers and 86 RBI).

Its been inconsistent, but still the home runs are there, the on-base percentage has still been there, Sveum said. Sometimes when a guy has a rookie season like he did, we kind of (scale it) too much.

Understand that the league knows how to pitch him better than they did then and all those kind of things. As long as were getting quality at-bats and catching well and handling the pitching staff, thats still what you want out of your catcher.

The Cubs could have two low-cost options fitting that description already in-house.

Clevenger felt something during batting practice on Friday and was scheduled to fly back to Chicago for treatment. The sense is that it could take weeks not just a 15-day DL stint to recover from an oblique injury, though theres no timetable yet.

I definitely believe I belong up here, Clevenger said. Im kind of disappointed, but at the same time, Ill be back and Ill be ready to go.

AP preps football rankings: Preseason

AP preps football rankings: Preseason

Here are the preseason rankings of Illinois high school football teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters.

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Loyola (10) 0-0 100 -
2 Lincoln-Way East 0-0 79 -
3 Glenbard West 0-0 60 -
4 Homewood-Flossmoor 0-0 52 -
5 Edwardsville 0-0 39 -
6 Marist 0-0 37 -
7 Palatine 0-0 32 -
8 Waubonsie Valley 0-0 29 -
8 (tie) Glenbard North 0-0 29 -
10 Huntley 0-0 28 -

Other receiving votes: Brother Rice (27), Naperville Neuqua Valley (17), Stevenson (8), Oak Park River Forest (5), Naperville Central (5), Glenbard East (2), Oswego (1)

Class 7A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Chicago Mt. Carmel (7) 0-0 91 -
2 East St. Louis (2) 0-0 72 -
3 Batavia 0-0 64 -
4 Libertyville (2) 0-0 62 -
5 Normal Community 0-0 54 -
6 Bradley-Bourbonnais 0-0 46 -
7 Jacobs 0-0 37 -
8 Wheaton Warrenville South 0-0 33 -
9 St. Charles North 0-0 27 -
10 St. Rita 0-0 22 -

Other receiving votes: Benet (21), Geneva (13), Lake Zurich (12), Lincoln Way West (12), Wheaton North (11), Machesney Park Harlem (9), Niles North (9), Schaumburg (4), Whitney Young (3), Fenwick (2), Belleville West (1)

Class 6A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Montini (8) 0-0 104 -
2 Sacred Heart-Griffin (Spr) (2) 0-0 92 -
3 Cary-Grove (1) 0-0 88 -
3 (tie) Prairie Ridge 0-0 82 -
5 Crete-Monee 0-0 76 -
6 Rockford Auburn 0-0 25 -
7 Lemont 0-0 21 -
8 Providence 0-0 20 -
9 Belvidere North 0-0 16 -
10 St. Laurence 0-0 15 -
10 (tie) Quincy 0-0 15 -

Other receiving votes: Oak Lawn Richards (13), Hinsdale South (10), DeKalb (9), Kennedy (7), Danville (7), Riverside-Brookfield (5), Lakes Community (3), Normal West (3), Chatham Glenwood (3), Grayslake (3), Harvey Thornton (3), Lake Forest (2)

Class 5A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Nazareth (7) 0-0 119 -
2 Peoria Central (1) 0-0 107 -
3 Washington 0-0 101 -
4 Joliet Catholic (5) 0-0 83 -
5 Champaign Central 0-0 54 -
6 Sterling 0-0 34 -
7 Sycamore 0-0 30 -
7 (tie) Centralia 0-0 30 -
9 Metamora 0-0 26 -
10 Triad 0-0 24 -

Other receiving votes: Woodstock Marian (23), Highland (18), Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights) (17), Eisenhower (15), Tinley Park (8), St. Francis (6), Dunlap (6), Richwoods (4), LaSalle-Peru (4), Jacksonville (3), Glenbard South (1), Peoria Notre Dame (1), Chicago (Solorio Academy) (1)

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Phillips (11) 0-0 127 -
2 Althoff Catholic (2) 0-0 118 -
3 Rochester 0-0 99 -
4 Breese Mater Dei 0-0 68 -
5 Geneseo 0-0 52 -
6 Marengo 0-0 46 -
7 Mateno 0-0 45 -
8 Johnsburg 0-0 44 -
9 Richmond-Burton 0-0 36 -
10 Plano 0-0 28 -

Other receiving votes: Rockford Lutheran (17), Columbia (15), Taylorville (9), Quincy Notre Dame (5), Murphysboro (3), Rock Island Alleman (1), Herrin (1), Bethalto Civic Memorial (1)

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Bishop McNamara (8) 0-0 124 -
2 Tolono Unity (3) 0-0 110 -
3 Wilmington 0-0 75 -
4 IC Catholic (2) 0-0 63 -
5 Monticello 0-0 48 -
6 North-Mac 0-0 43 -
7 Pana 0-0 42 -
8 Newton 0-0 39 -
9 Paxton-Buckley-Loda 0-0 34 -
9 (tie) Byron 0-0 34 -

Other receiving votes: St. Joseph-Ogden (31), Bloomington Central Catholic (20), Carlinville (15), Elmwood-Brimfield (15), Breese Central (10), Williamsville (9), Princeton (8), Winnebago (5), Aurora Christian (5), Mercer County (3), Mt. Carmel (3), Herscher (2), Dwight (1), Westville (1), Marshall (1)

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Auburn (1) 0-0 90 -
2 Downs Tri-Valley 0-0 84 -
3 Maroa-Forsyth (2) 0-0 79 -
4 Deer Creek-Mackinaw (3) 0-0 73 -
5 Sterling Newman (1) 0-0 52 -
6 St. Bede 0-0 48 -
7 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 0-0 35 -
7 (tie) Wethersfield 0-0 35 -
9 Mendon Unity 0-0 20 -
10 Orion 0-0 42 -

Other receiving votes: Rockridge (15), Nashville (14), Bismarck-Henning (11), Hall (11), Eldorado (7), DuQuoin (6), El Paso-Gridley (4), Champaign St. Thomas More (4), Villa Grove (4), Clifton Central (3), Chester (3), Fulton (3), Hamilton West Hancock (3), Eastland-Pearl City (1), Lawrenceville (1)

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Stark County (3) 0-0 91 -
2 Decatur St. Teresa (2) 0-0 76 -
3 Ottawa Marquette (1) 0-0 65 -
4 Lena-Winslow (2) 0-0 62 -
5 Tuscola 0-0 60 -
6 Forreston (2) 0-0 53 -
7 Carrollton 0-0 36 -
8 Dakota 0-0 31 -
9 Mt. Sterling (Brown County) 0-0 30 -
10 Athens (1) 0-0 27 -

Other receiving votes: LeRoy (26), Arcola (23), Bureau Valley (22), Stockton (16), Camp Point Central (13), Pawnee (11), Galena (6), Cerro Gordo (Cerro Gordo-Bement Coop) (5), Concord (Triopia) (4), Sidell (Jamaica)-Salt Fork (2), Hardin (Calhoun) (1)

How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?

How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?

SAN DIEGO — The airtight defensive alignment for October would have to include Javier Baez, a game-changing force moving in all directions. The Cubs have seen Baez make barehanded plays and laser throws, take charge on bunts and frustrate hitters with an uncanny ability to improvise and make split-second decisions.

Baez and Addison Russell are two of the best athletes in the entire game, Jake Arrieta said after Tuesday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, so put the ball in play and let those two middle infielders take over.

There could be playoff lineups where Baez starts at second base and bumps Ben Zobrist to the outfield. But manager Joe Maddon isn’t about to hand Baez an everyday job, sticking with the super-utility formula and versatile philosophy that’s helped the Cubs become the best team in baseball.

“It depends on how we morph as a group over the next couple years,” Maddon said Wednesday at Petco Park. “Right now, I like the way it’s working out. I like the fact that (Javy’s) getting rested (and) not playing every day. Look at his at-bats — they have gotten better, too. He is making adjustments or adaptations during the at-bat. He’s not just out of control every swing.”

Baez has channeled his aggressiveness, hitting .276 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and 83 strikeouts through 343 plate appearances, becoming a more mature and well-rounded player at the age of 23.

“You’re seeing a lot of progress,” Maddon said. “Who knows if by playing sporadically this is becoming more part of who he is? As opposed to playing every day, maybe getting caught in the trap of not hitting well, whatever, and all of a sudden he takes it on defense. It’s natural progression. He’s an everyday player, there’s no question, in maybe a couple years.”

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The Geek Department and scouting reports will ultimately influence where Baez plays, because Maddon wants him wherever the ball will most likely be hit most often. When Jon Lester pitches, that can mean Baez starting at third base and Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.

The Cubs promised Zobrist the second-base job when he signed a four-year, $56 million contract, agreeing the focus on one position would help reduce the wear and tear on his body at the age of 35. The Cubs still need Zobrist’s switch-hitting skills and World Series experience in the lineup.

Maddon also wants to keep Jorge Soler involved — because he’s a presence other teams have to account for — and maybe that will mean sacrificing Jason Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field at times.

But Baez is the type of defender the Cubs will want to see out there in one-run, low-scoring playoff games.

“He’s unbelievable,” Bryant said. “Any ball hit his way — whether it’s in the air, on the ground, on line — you kind of just expect him to make the play and make it look good. That’s what he’s been doing all year. I certainly think he’s Gold Glove worthy, but he plays all over. I feel like there should be a utility man Gold Glove, because he definitely (deserves it).”

U.S. Cellular Field to become Guaranteed Rate Field after 2016 season

U.S. Cellular Field to become Guaranteed Rate Field after 2016 season

The White Sox announced on Wednesday they have signed a 13-year naming rights deal with Guaranteed Rate for their home ballpark, which will be known as Guaranteed Field beginning on Nov. 1, 2016. 

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority approved the name change in a meeting on Wednesday.

"We are pleased to find, in Guaranteed Rate, a new naming rights partner founded in Chicago by Chicagoans, which shares our commitment to the city and to our fans," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "We view this partnership as an opportunity to connect a successful Chicago business with a historic baseball franchise, and we look forward to growing this important relationship over the coming years as millions of fans enjoy White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field."

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Under the team's lease for the ballpark, the White Sox retain an option that could extend the naming rights deal an additional year through 2030.

The White Sox played at Comiskey Park from 1991-2002 before the ballpark's name changed to U.S. Cellular Field from 2003-2016.