So far, three catchers not a crowd for Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Welington Castillo catches a ball during a spring training workout in February. There are whispers that Castillo needs to do a better job of framing his pitches.

    Welington Castillo catches a ball during a spring training workout in February. There are whispers that Castillo needs to do a better job of framing his pitches. Associated Press

  • Boston's David Ross collides with Tigers catcher Alex Avila during Game 5 of the 2013 ALCS. Ross has served as Jon Lester's personal catcher in the past.

    Boston's David Ross collides with Tigers catcher Alex Avila during Game 5 of the 2013 ALCS. Ross has served as Jon Lester's personal catcher in the past. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/9/2015 8:42 PM

Early on, the big question in Cubs camp was whether three would be a crowd.

The three in question are catchers Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo.

 

Most baseball teams today find it an unworkable luxury to carry three catchers, especially when they're carrying 12-man -- and sometimes 13-man -- pitching staffs.

But early in the Cactus League season, here the Cubs are with three bona fide major-league backstops plus others on the spring roster.

"You look at those three guys side by side by side, that's pretty impressive," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said at the beginning of camp. "You get three catchers like that in the same area code, that's pretty good."

Heading into Monday's game vs. San Diego, the Cubs had used all three, with Castillo getting the most action.

However, he's the one likely to be living in a different area code at some point.

The Cubs traded for Montero in the off-season, ostensibly to be their No. 1 catcher, and Maddon has talked up his intelligence from Day One.

"He's really into the sports-psychology component of the game," Maddon said. "He really gets all of that stuff. He's got strong opinions on pitcher-catcher relationships, how to call a game. He's well thought out. He really is.

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"Beyond that, you can see him swinging the bat. Here's a guy that plays. Here's a catcher that plays a lot of games. He's really an interesting cat. Physically he's not imposing, but he's a baseball player."

Cubs management has done and said all the right things about Castillo, even amid whispers that he doesn't "frame" pitches well.

Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer both have said they still believe in Castillo, and why not? There's no good reason to run down an asset in hand, especially when another team is just a foul tip away from needing a catcher in March.

Long considered an offense-first catcher, Castillo slipped last year to a line of .237/.296/.389, but he did hit a career-best 13 home runs. Montero, by the way, had a line of .243/.329/.370 with 13 homers and 72 RBI for Arizona. He also brings the Cubs a left-handed bat.

That brings us to Ross, who has carved out a nice career as a backup catcher. Not only that, he has served as the "personal catcher" to newly signed Cubs ace Jon Lester when both were in Boston.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maddon says he likes the concept of a personal catcher.

"I'm not against it," he said. "It's a way of getting a backup guy into a game. I really like to have players know in advance when they're playing, especially those who don't play all the time. I'm' not opposed to that, quite frankly, because I've seen it work pretty well.

"I'm sure David will certainly help the transition for Jon."

For his part, Lester tried to downplay any favoring of one catcher over another. Oftentimes, a pitcher will develop a good relationship with the backup catcher, such as Greg Maddux did with Henry Blanco in Atlanta and with the Cubs.

Ross was the backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia in Boston for the 2013 championship run.

"I guess just being familiar with him," Lester said of Ross. "He was with the Red Sox in '08 and then came back in '13. I think a lot of it kind of got overblown in the playoffs. I think Salty did such a good job for us the whole year, and it just got to the playoffs where Rossie just kind of had the hot hand, whether it be a couple of hits or whether it be putting down good fingers. He was our guy. He caught.

"And that's not taking anything away from what Salty did for us that year. We (Lester and Ross) just work well together. For some reason, he and I are on the same page. He knows when to come out there and get on me a little bit and knows when to kind of pull back and let me get on cruise control.

"I think it's just the familiar part of it. That just takes time. I'll throw to Miggy. I'll throw to whoever, and we'll work on it. We'll figure it out. I'm not really that hard to catch."

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