Cubs educate Castillo with examples of greatness
MESA, Ariz. -- Mickey Cochrane was the latest addition to the gallery near Cubs catcher Welington Castillo's locker.
Every day, Cubs coach Mike Borzello hands Castillo a picture of a Hall of Fame catcher with his stats on the other side of the paper. The "Wall of Fame" includes Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and now Cochrane.
"[Borzello] says, 'Just look at the numbers and how many years he's played, what he hit for his whole life, MVP,'" Castillo said Sunday. "I do a little bit of homework and know who they are. There's a lot of guys and I don't know who they are."
The education is to help Castillo, 26, who is entering his second season as the Cubs' full-time catcher. Last year, he batted .274 and set career highs in games (113), home runs (eight), and RBIs (32).
This spring should be easier. Castillo has a better feel for the staff, knows what pitching coach Chris Bosio wants, and how to handle the rigors of a long season. And he knows the Cubs are underdogs in the National League Central.
"I want to play, I want to go out and play and have fun," Castillo said. "What can we do? No names -- we've got no names. I think we're going to do good. There's a lot of young people, young guys who want to do everything to win. I can see it in their eyes -- 'I'm ready, I'm hungry.' Like, 'Throw me in the jungle, I'm going to get out of there.' I can't wait for the games."
He'll have to wait until Thursday, when the team christens new Cubs Park in west Mesa with a game against the D-backs. Castillo has been slowed a little this spring because of some soreness in his groin. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus in September and worked on conditioning, not catching, this winter.
"I didn't do anything as a catcher this offseason," Castillo said. "I started doing everything right away hard [in camp] and I'm just a little tight. They told me, 'We need you for the whole season, so take it easy.'"
The good news is that his knee is fine, and there's no soreness or pain.
"[The soreness is from] a lot of squats and stuff like that," Castillo said. "I feel good. I feel hungry to play. Every day I ask, 'When are the games going to start?'"
Two other catchers in Cubs camp, George Kottaras and John Baker, joined Castillo's wall on Sunday. At least he has seen them play.
"I never saw those other guys play," he said of Berra and Cochrane. "They're really good catchers."
The Cubs feel the same about Castillo.