MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs plan to build around Welington Castillo. They just need to keep their 26-year-old catcher on the field.
Catching depth is a major issue for an elite farm system that just put seven prospects on Baseball America’s top 100 list. The new rule outlawing collisions at home plate could protect Castillo, but the Cubs are still waiting to see the details.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” catching coach Mike Borzello said Sunday at Cubs Park. “We’ve done plays at the plate. We’ve done drills (without) really knowing what we’re allowed to do. (We’re) sort of doing it the old way, but with a swipe tag at the end of it.”
Major League Baseball officials are expected to meet with managers this week to review the rule change and expanded instant replay. The Cubs will unveil their new Mesa stadium and begin Cactus League play on Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Until they give us the language, we’re just winging it,” Borzello said. “But we have to do something (here) – spring-training games are going to start pretty quick and we haven’t heard anything on what the actual rule is and how it plays. There’s a lot of questions to be answered.”
Castillo doesn’t have Buster Posey’s World Series rings or National League MVP hardware. But this rebuild would still take a big step backward if Castillo suffered a major injury, like the broken leg that sidelined the San Francisco Giants catcher in 2011.
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The Cubs shut down Castillo late last September to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. He missed part of the 2012 season with an MCL sprain in his right knee. He dealt with thumb and hamstring injuries in 2011.
This is a grueling position. The Cubs acquired George Kottaras to be Castillo’s backup and signed John Baker and Eli Whiteside to minor-league deals for depth.
Manager Rick Renteria acknowledged the Cubs are monitoring Castillo and will manage his workload as he comes back from that arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
“It’s like anything – we’re looking for the long haul,” Renteria said. “These guys have been going at it with high intensity, almost to the point where we’re saying: ‘It’s OK to take it back a notch.’ But they’ve been very focused on what they’re doing. (So) I’d rather be able to pull somebody back than try to get them going.”