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Welington Castillo sees big things ahead for Cubs, wants to lead way

Updated: February 23, 2014 9:31PM



MESA, Ariz. — Catcher Welington Castillo has a vision for his future.

Actually, he has that vision plastered on the wall next to his locker in the Cubs’ spring-training clubhouse. It’s in the form of old pictures of catching greats such as Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard and Gary Carter.

Hall of Famers. Most Valuable Players. Champions.

‘‘Every year, it’s something new,’’ Castillo said Sunday as he looked for a place on the wall to put the newest picture — of Mickey Coch-
rane — left at his locker by catching coach Mike Borzello.

Last spring training, Borzello had Castillo study video of St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Yadier Molina. This year, it’s the ‘‘Wall of Fame,’’ which also features pictures of new Cubs catchers George Kottaras and John Baker that some prankster added.

‘‘Great catchers with great
careers,’’ Castillo said, looking at the wall. ‘‘Every time I see a guy like that, it motivates me to come out, have fun and play hard. . . . One day, I hope to be like them.’’

For a team short on big-league star power and even shorter on
expectations heading into the 2014 season, Castillo, 26, already looks like a rare bright spot on the
major-league side of the Cubs’ long-term rebuilding process. While he still has a lot of work to do on his pitch-calling, he already has one of the strongest arms in the majors, blocks pitches well and hit .274 with 31 extra-base hits and a .349 on-base percentage in his first full season in the majors in 2013.

Castillo ranked among the top catchers in several offensive cate-
gories and ranked first in defensive wins above replacement (2.8)
despite playing in only 113 games, in part because of a knee injury that cost him the final nine games of the season. He’s back from surgery to clean out a meniscus problem in the knee and has had only minor soreness while being eased into action early in camp.

Cubs officials consider Castillo a part of the homegrown core, along with Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney. Castillo sees bigger things than that.

‘‘I want to be an All-Star,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to have a Gold Glove. Why not? I want to be MVP. Why not? That’s the expectation you have to have in this game just to motivate yourself.

‘‘Other people can do it,’’ he added, gesturing to the wall. ‘‘Those guys did it. Why can’t I do it?’’

What he sees when he’s talking about MVPs includes the bigger picture of the Cubs’ success it
implies and visions of the kids — Javy Baez and Kris Bryant — sitting just a few lockers away.

‘‘I want to be part of this when we get good; I want to be part of this when we win a World Series,’’ Castillo said. ‘‘I want to handle all the young guys coming up on the pitching staff. I want to be like the parents of those young guys. Like, when they come up, it’s: ‘Hey, that’s the guy. We need to follow that guy. We believe in him.’

‘‘That’s the kind of person I want to be here. I want to be a champion. I want to win.’’

Especially with the Cubs, the team that signed him when he was a 17-year-old prospect in the Dominican Republic. His team. His home. His vision.

‘‘If you win a championship here, you’re going to be in history forever,’’ Castillo said.

Maybe even be in pictures.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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