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updated: 3/27/2014 8:27 PM

Cubs' Baker gets big-time validation with roster spot

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  • Backup catcher John Baker has seen plenty of ups and downs during his baseball career, but he was flying high Thursday when he learned he earned a spot on the Cubs' opening-day roster.

    Backup catcher John Baker has seen plenty of ups and downs during his baseball career, but he was flying high Thursday when he learned he earned a spot on the Cubs' opening-day roster.
    Associated Press


MESA, Ariz. -- Spring training always is full of good stories of players who make the team out of nowhere.

Cubs backup catcher John Baker is one of those stories.

Baker got word Wednesday that he had made it ahead of George Kottaras and Eli Whiteside. He played in 16 games for the Padres last year and has big-league time with the Marlins. He lost his big-league job last year when Yasmani Grandal came back from a steroid-related suspension.

"It's pretty validating for me," Baker said Thursday. "I told them when I was in the meeting it's almost sweeter than the first time I ever got called up based on what I've gone through the last year, getting sent down because somebody was taking steroids and coming back off the steroid thing and getting hurt in the first minor-league game I was playing in, traveling all over the place last year, dragging my family all over the map.

"It's very validating to know that all of the hard work I've put in, and I think it shows the resiliency that I've developed over the years of playing this game to be able to come out and start."

The best news, he said was being able to talk with his dad about making the team.

"To talk to my dad and say, 'Do you want to see the first game, do you want to see Opening Day of the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field?' If that doesn't give you goose bumps, you have no pulse," he said,

Baker played for the Kane County Cougars for part of 2003, and he said his host family was very generous with one particular thing.

"I loved my time there," he said. "Every time we had an off-day, he gave us his Cubs season tickets and I went and saw Cubs games. It's kind of full circle, validating, a pretty emotional moment for me."

Castro getting closer:

Shortstop Starlin Castro said he planned to play nine innings Thursday in a minor-league game. If that went well, Castro said he was set for at least one of the two games against the Diamondbacks, Friday and Saturday at Chase Field in Phoenix.

"I've got to be ready," an upbeat Castro said.

Cubs hold off Sox:

The Cubs held off the White Sox 4-3 Thursday. The Cubs will finish exhibition play Friday and Saturday with games against the Diamondbacks.

The Sox flew out of Arizona after Thursday's game. They headed to Birmingham, Ala., to face their Class AA team Friday night.

In Thursday's game, the Sox came close in the ninth inning on back-to-back home runs by Adam Dunn and Alejandro De Aza. It was De Aza's second homer of the spring and Dunn's first.

Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood (1-2) worked 3 innings and gave up 2 hits and no runs while striking out four. Sox starter Felipe Paulino (1-2) pitched 4 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs.

"I feel like I'm ready for the season," Paulino told media covering the White Sox. "We're supposed to get through four innings today, and that's what we did. I made great pitches today. There were a few situations in the game, they made a good swing to me, but in the end, I competed and made a great pitch and got out of the inning sometimes."

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