Koyie Hill

Like a bad penny, the Cubs can't seem to catch a break. Here is the list of the broken catchers:

Steve Clevenger -Oblique rib cage strain. He is scheduled to return to the batting cage this weekend and might be ready to come off the DL by next weekend in Pittsburgh.

Geo Soto - Went on the DL with a knee meniscus tear and had it repaired/ trimmed on Friday. Out at least 3 weeks.

Welington Castillo - Had an MRI of his knee this am and has a mild medial collateral sprain. Out of action about one week if things go well.

So who is left, you ask? Hint: Blake Lalli isn't in the starting lineup tonight...

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They called the sunday (almost) finale of the Giants series early enough that a fan from Kenosha driving to Wrigley didn't have to get much past the Illinois border before turning around and calling a sports talk show to say thanks for the game cancellation update. Postponing the game early was the right thing to do. Playing last night in similar weather was not. I guess a national Fox broadcast causes funny decisions to be made.

Today's rainout has been rescheduled as a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday, June 28th. It's a quirky schedule that has the Giants coming to Wrigley Field twice this year otherwise they would have lost a scheduled day off to make up this game.

I need to vent some frustration and reflect on the week just past...

We've had a bit of a discussion lately about back-up catchers with the trading away of Robinson Chirinos, the signing of Max Ramirez and the head-scratching re-upping of Koyie Hill via the arbitraton process. Reader WISCGRAD put together a spreadsheet of catchers by Baseball Reference's WAR values which does include a defensive component.

ESPN's Bruce Levine reports that the Cubs have signed 34-year old free-agent OF Reed Johnson to a minor league contact with an invitation to Spring Training.


The right-handed hitting Johnson played college ball at Cal State - Fullerton, and was a 17th round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999. He made his big league debut in 2003, and is a career 281/340/408 hitter in MLB. He was released by Toronto at the end of Spring Training 2008 (the Jays wanted to avoid paying him the $3.2M salary he won in arbitration), and he was immediately signed by the Cubs. Johnson played for the Cubs in 2008 and 2009 and did a nice job, hitting 303/358/420 with six HR and 20 doubles in 109 games in 2008 while platooning with Jim Edmonds in CF. and 255/330/412 with four HR and ten doubles in just 65 games in 2009. 


Johnson signed with the Dodgers after leaving the Cubs, and hit 262/291366 with two HR and 11 RBI in 45 games last season.


Johnson has a chronic back problem that his landed him on the DL for extended periods over the past two seasons, but when healthy he is a decent 4th OF. Ryan Dempster had lobbied to bring the popular Johnson back to the Cubs when he was a free-agent post-2009, but the Cubs chose to let him look elsewhere.  


Johnson will battle Fernando Perez, Brad Snyder and James Adduci for a back-up OF job in Spring Training. and while he is signed to a minor league contract, Johnson probably has an opt-out clause in his contract allowing him to demand his release if he does not make the Cubs 2011 Opening Day 25-man roster.


The Cubs have also agreed to an $850K 2011 contract with 31-year old back-up catcher Koyie Hill, avoiding arbitration. The switch-hitting Hill has been with the Cubs since 2007, and has been the team's primary back-up catcher for the past two seasons.  


Hill is a career 215/276/302 hitter in the big leagues, and has hit 211/271/299 in 206 games (642 PA) as a Cub. He has thrown out 28% of opposing base-stealers in his career (but only 18% last season). The veteran backstop has good receiving skills and is a smart and savvy game-caller and handler of pitchers, and that has kept him in a Cub uniform despite a weak bat,


Hill played college ball at Wichita State, and was a member of Team USA in 1999. He played 3B at Wichita State and 2B with Team USA, and then was converted to catcher after getting drafted and signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000. Once a Dodgers Top 10 Prospect, Hill suffered a broken ankle in a home plate collision after being acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade for Steve Finley in 2004, and then he sustained a near career-ending hand injury when he cut off his thumb and two of his fingers of his right hand (throwing hand) with a table saw after the 2007 season. Doctors were able to surgically reattach the thumb and fingers in a way that allowed him to continue his baseball career.  


The Cubs originally signed Hill as a Rule 55 minor league FA after the 2006 season.

Update: Paul Sullivan reports in the Tribune that Soto underwent an MRI today and has "minor inflammation in the biceps area." He will not be going on the DL.

Soto is likely to sit out the Friday and Saturday games in Milwaukee and "possibly all three depending on how he feels this weekend." Aaron Miles will be the designated emergency catcher behind Koyie Hill while Soto recovers.


Geovany Soto is supposedly in Chicago today so Cubs team orthopedist Stephen Gryzlo can take a look at that sore shoulder. If the defending NL ROY lands on the Disabled List, the logical move would be to summon 33-year-old Mark Johnson from Iowa. The lefthanded-hitting Johnson, who was originally drafted by the White Sox back in '94, went 4-for-19 at Mesa this spring.

Over parts of eight Major League seasons with the Sox, A's, Brewers, and
Cardinals, Johnson has compiled a hitting line of .218/.314/.318.
In other words, in the temporary catching tandem of Koyie Hill and Mark
Johnson, the big bat would be...nobody.

He is, however, said to "call a good game," the catching equivalent of being a blind date with a winning personality.
Let's keep a good thought re: Soto's check-up.

If you've been on the Web for even a few minutes today, you already know about the car crash that took the lives of Angels pitcher, Nick Adenhart, and two other people. The whole tragic story is here.

 

Andres Blanco looped a single over the third-baseman's head to score Reed Johnson from second with one out in the bottom of the 9th, as the Cubs squandered an early 7-1 lead only to come back and defeat the Cleveland Indians 9-8 before a sparse crowd on Spring Training "getaway day" at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa.  

box score

The Cubs trimmed their roster by two more today, releasing Gabor Bako and LHP Mike Stanton. Congrats to Koyie Hill and his bionic hand. The roster now stands at 28 and the position players and bench are set for Opening Day. The spring roster with just a week left in camp.

CATCHERS - Soto, Hill

INFIELDERS - Lee, Theriot, Miles, Fontenot, Ramirez, Hoffpauir

OUTFIELDERS - Soriano, Fukudome, Johnson, Bradley, Gathright

STARTING PITCHING: Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Marshall

RELIEF PITCHING:  Gregg, Marmol, Heilman, Vizcaino, Cotts, Gaudin, Patton, Guzman, Fox, Samardzija

 

I think the first 5 bullpen spots are locked down, leaving Gaudin, Patton, Guzman, Fox and Samardzija for the final two spots and I don't see why they'd keep Samardzija in the majors with the relatively poor spring he has had and the fact that he has options left. And it's quite possible that Rich Harden will see the disabled list to start the season and the Cubs will then just have to move one of the four left  - Gaudin, Patton, Guzman or Fox (Large cartoon blinking arrow pointing at Chad Gaudin's name).

 

Rich Harden threw four shutout innings and Welington Castillo's two run home run capped a five-run 5th, as the Iowa Cubs (Cubs AAA affiliate) edged the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) 5-4 before an unusually large Minor League Camp crowd of 50+ at cool & breezy Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon

Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode were in attendance, and the place was absoluely crawling with beat writers, bloggers, and assorted Cubs fans intent on watching an actual Cubs major league pitcher throw on a day when the big club had the day off, and they were not disappointed.

However, very few stayed for the whole game. 

So for those of you who want to know how Harden looked, but also just HAVE to know how the Iowa Cubs did it,.. here is... the... rest...of... the... story...

Angel Guzman (September '07 TJS) had what was likely his final rehab outing last night at Iowa, pitching the 8th & 9th in a GF non-save situation in an I-Cubs victory, throwing two shutout inings (31 pitches - 23 strikes). With his minor league rehab going well, I fully expect the Cubs to reactivate Guzman from the 60-day DL on Monday when the MLB active rosters expand to 40.

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