Hot-hitting Steve Clevenger, off to a 11-for-22 start at the plate, was on the brink of becoming Dale Sveum’s everyday catcher before suffering tightness in his right side.
The injury forced Clevenger to the 15-day DL on April 30, which doesn’t expire until next Tuesday.
But even from the training table Clevenger appears to have the upper hand on Geovany Soto, whose season-long slump has dropped his batting average to .152, ranking 29th among major league back stoppers.
Despite a two-run homer against Atlanta Monday night, Soto has done little with his second opportunity to secure his starting role, including a 2-for-17 performance during the recent homestand.
Overall Soto’s struck out 17 times vs. nine walks, is batting .063 with RISP (20 points lower than Marlon Byrd) and has grounded into three double plays, second most on the team.
Welington Castillo, called up from Iowa to replace Clevenger’s roster spot, hasn’t been any better. In three starts he’s 0-for-11 with one walk, which was intentional. Not exactly a breakout moment.
With Clevenger laid up for at least another five days, and suffering from the type of injury that can linger for up to a month, the smart money is on Sveum to stick with Soto in favor of Castillo.
The move appears counter productive for a team rebuilding with the 25-year-old Castillo riding the pine. But if the Cubs have any intentions of dealing Soto they need the guy to start hitting, which no player does from the bench.
However, if the Cubs continue playing and pitching as well as they have during the past three series, Sveum will have little choice but to insert Clevenger as the starting catcher upon his return.
There’s simply not enough offense to justify Soto’s sure-outs this season on a club strapped for run scoring.
Soto got a fair shake from Sveum to start the season. Clevenger’s misfortune provided him another chance. Soto hasn’t capitalized on either.
If Soto’s lucky enough to catch a third break, chances are it won’t come while he’s wearing a Cubs uniform.