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Welington Castillo hoping to catch on as backup

WelingtCastillo had an impressive spring last year but there wasn’t roster spot available. This seasbackup spot behind Geovany Sois open.

Welington Castillo had an impressive spring last year, but there wasn’t a roster spot available. This season, the backup spot behind Geovany Soto is open. | Jose M. Osorio~AP

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Updated: April 2, 2012 9:52AM

MESA, Ariz. — Welington Castillo is out to prove that timing isn’t necessarily everything.

The Cubs’ top catching prospect went 12-for-19 (.632) last spring with four walks, some power and several gasp-inducing throws from behind the plate. It was the kind of spring that almost would assure a big-league job, but there were no openings at the position.

‘‘I don’t want to say I’m trying to do like I did last year. I just want to play and see what happens,” said Castillo, one of three strong candidates to replace departed backup Koyie Hill. ‘‘We have a tough competition, but you’ve just got to do your best to show you can be that guy.’’

Also in the mix are Pittsburgh Pirates import Jason Jaramillo and Cubs prospect Steve Clevenger, who went 4-for-5 with a double and a walk during a shorter stretch in big-league camp last spring.

‘‘It’s pretty impressive to have this many catchers in camp that can really swing the bat and swing the bat from the left side or switch-hit,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘And they all receive well. They’re all doing a great job.’’

Clevenger bats left, Welington right and Jaramillo switch-hits.

Sveum would prefer to have a backup who can offset the right-handed bat of starter Geovany Soto.

‘‘It matters, but it’s not the final piece of the puzzle by any means,’’ he said. ‘‘The guy that’s going to work and be able to handle pitchers is the biggest thing when it comes down to it.’’

If there’s an advantage to Soto likely being sidelined for at least the first few exhibition games with a groin injury, it’s the extended looks for the backups.

Castillo, who has played in 11 big-league games the last two seasons, said he’s ready, especially after dropping more than 15 pounds this winter.

He’s down to 205, hoping to ease the stress on his legs after two right hamstring injuries late last summer cost him a September call-up. Clevenger was promoted instead.

‘‘Let’s play baseball and see what happens,’’ Castillo said.

Shrink rap

The Cubs have had a team psychologist since the Ricketts family took ownership before the 2010 season. Sveum seems to be on board with the idea.

He said he remembers when he was playing for the Milwaukee Brewers and they brought in a psychologist during a rough start in 1987.

‘‘When we saw him, we were two games under .500, and after we saw him for a couple hours, we finished the season winning 91 games,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘So we were about 20 games over .500. I think it helped us a lot.’’

Leave it to the Cubs. They had three consecutive winning seasons before hiring Dr. Marc Strickland. Since then, they’re 32 games under .500.


Half of the Sweet 16 field for the Cubs’ bunt tournament is set after four more advanced: Casey Coleman, Chris Rusin, Clevenger and Castillo. Highlights included the first 100-point bull’s-eye score, by Brett Jackson in a desperation comeback attempt against Castillo.

◆ Pitchers for the intrasquad game Friday: Randy Wells, Coleman, Travis Wood and Andy Sonnanstine. For the game Saturday: Jay Jackson, Trey McNutt, Rusin and Alberto Cabrera.

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