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.

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after he suffered a stress reaction in his right foot.

Tilson suffered the injury while running in a workout on Friday and had an MRI performed on Saturday. A team official said Tilson’s injury isn’t as severe as a fracture but he’d be sidelined for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated. Acquired last July, the White Sox rookie was already rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But Tilson suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson had made good progress in his rehab and was a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL: 'He's a special player'

Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is putting up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League.

He ranks first among all players with 49 goals and 104 points, and has done so in only 50 games. That's an average of more than two points per game.

DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick (No. 39 overall) in 2015 thanks to the Andrew Shaw trade, became the Erie Otters' all-time leading goal scorer earlier this year and on Saturday, he tied Brad Boyes for second on the team's all-time points list with 309. The only player he's chasing now is teammate Dylan Strome, who has 329 and counting.

Connor McDavid, who ranks fourth in Otters history with 285 points, was there for DeBrincat's rookie season when he scored 51 goals and 50 assists. The 20-year-old Oilers captain very much still pays attention to the Otters, and isn't surprised by the heightened success of his former teammate.

"He’s having another amazing season," McDavid said. "No surprise there."

It was easy to suggest DeBrincat's numbers were inflated because he benefited from having a player like McDavid centering his line. But McDavid insists that wasn't the case.

"Honestly, we helped each other," McDavid said. "It was not a one-way street by any means. He finds a way to score goals. My year they were saying, 'Oh, he was just playing with me.' Then the other year, he’s playing with (Strome). He’s playing with Stromer again. To score 50 three seasons in a row is absolutely incredible no matter who you’re playing with or what you’re doing. Absolute credit to him."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The numbers back it up, too.

DeBrincat's points per game average has increased in each of the last three seasons: 1.53, 1.68 and 2.08, a significant jump from his second to third season. It's especially impressive when you factor in that he's scored only eight of his 49 goals on the power play this year after combining for 34 goals on the man advantage in his first two. 

Initially, McDavid was a little skeptical when informed that newly-signed winger DeBrincat, who's now listed as 5-7, 170 pounds, would be his new linemate. It didn't take long for that to change.

"He kind of just came out of nowhere," McDavid said. "I remember us signing (him) and looking, and it said he was 5-2, 140 pounds, whatever. The GM at the time, Sherry Bassin, said 'I found you a new winger.' I’m like, ‘That guy is going to play with me?’ Sure enough, he comes in and we kind of have that chemistry right away.

"He knows where the net is. He finds a way to score basically every night. He’s got a great shot. He’s one of the feistiest guys I’ve ever played with. It’s really remarkable about what he’s been able to do."

Size is surely to be the biggest concern for DeBrincat at the NHL level, but players such as Cam Atkinson (5-7), Johnny Gaudreau (5-8) and Mats Zuccarello (5-7) are proving that you can be among the league's best despite being undersized. And the game is evolving into more of an up-tempo style where teams built on speed is becoming the new norm.

DeBrincat's willingness to stick his nose into dirty areas combined with his offensively-gifted ability is a big reason why McDavid believes his former linemate will succeed at the highest level.

"I think well," McDavid said when asked how DeBrincat's game will translate into the NHL. "He’s just got such a drive and such a nose for the net that I don’t think he’s going to be stopped. He takes on guys much bigger. I don’t really know how he does it.

"Especially when he was a rookie and I was playing with him, he’s going into scrums against guys that are 6-5, and you’re on the ice thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to help you?’ He definitely picks his fights. He’s a special person and special player."