Back in late 2007, the Cubs brought up a young catcher who helped them reach the playoffs and then won the Rookie of the Year award the next season.
That young catcher was Geovany Soto, and as promising as his future seemed at the time, he had some help.
On the Cubs' roster in those days was Henry Blanco. The veteran backup catcher was a valuable mentor to Soto, alternately encouraging him about his game and needling him about things such as his weight.
Soto is gone, having been traded to the Texas Rangers in last July's roster purge.
Now, the starting catcher's job belongs to 25-year-old Welington Castillo, who has 63 games of major-league experience. It will be his task to handle a veteran pitching staff in 2013.
Castillo and fellow rookie Steve Clevenger did the catching during the final two months of last year, with Castillo emerging as the favorite to start this season.
Rather than have a pair of youngsters handle all the catching, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer went out this winter and signed veteran catcher Dioner Navarro. He figures to serve the same role for Castillo as Blanco served for Soto.
“He's been helping me a lot,” Castillo told cubs.com. “He's a great guy. He told me, 'I'm here for you. Anything you want me to do, tell me. Anything you need to improve on, I'll help you, I'll let you know.'
“He's been really good — a good guy to learn from with a lot of experience in the big leagues. Playoffs, too. He's really good behind the plate. He's been teaching me a lot and talking to me about game calling.”
Navarro, 29, has 626 games of major-league experience with the Yankees, Dodgers, Rays and Reds. Last year he spent 24 games with the Reds and 62 with Class AAA Louisville.
“Who doesn't want to play for the Cubs?” Navarro told the media in Mesa, Ariz. “I thought this was my best chance to re-establish myself back into the big leagues.”
Navarro mainly will help Castillo with his handling of pitchers and game-calling skills.
Castillo has shown promise at the plate. Last year he had a line of .265/.337/.418 with 5 homers in 170 at-bats. In the minor leagues since 2005 Castillo had a line of .268/.335/.426 with 64 home runs.
As for Clevenger, he could be the odd man out, but he bats left-handed and was drafted as an infielder, so it's not out of the question he could win a utility job.
Michael Brenly, son of former Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly, is in camp as a nonroster man, as is Rafael Lopez.
Brenly is a solid defensive catcher, but he hit .227 at Class AA Tennessee last year. Lopez, a 16th-rounder in 2011, split time between Peoria (A) and Daytona (A) last year.
Baseball America lists Chadd Krist, taken in the ninth round last year, as the organization's best defensive catcher.
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