Cubs catchers will keep pushing Geovany Soto

748533.png

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.

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

We all remember Joakim Noah's twisty-turny tornado shooting style from the free-throw line.

It was funny, and it worked better than you might expect, with Noah's unconventional shooting style from the charity stripe going through the net better than 73 percent of the time over a five-season span from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

But things haven't gone so well there for Noah in his first season with the New York Knicks. Entering Monday night's game, Noah was shooting just 42.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Well, things might've hit rock bottom Monday, with this nasty-looking free-throw try from Noah that missed everything.

Take a look:

Say it ain't so, Jo.

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.