GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If there is one position the Chicago Cubs seemingly are always trying to find a long-term starter for it's arguably at catcher. With Geovany Soto long gone, this year they’ll turn to 25-year-old Welington Castillo.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum made it clear on Monday the job is Castillo’s -- as long as he performs.
“You’d like to see Welington start out his first year playing every day, catch right around 100 to 110 games,” Sveum said. “But that’s subject to change depending on his own production and how things are going.”
Sveum made those comments before Monday’s Cactus League contest between the Cubs and Dodgers, in which Castillo promptly homered in his first at-bat.
“It helps to come to spring training and know you have a job, but at the same time I don’t feel comfortable, just have to keep working hard and feel like I don’t have anything,” Castillo said afterwards.
Castillo played in 52 games last season and impressed the Cubs enough to earn the job this spring.
“Welington is the everyday catcher,” Sveum said.
“I feel really strong," Castillo said. "In my mind I’m ready for 150.”
Castillo and back-up Dioner Navarro are developing a friendship and a little rivalry. Navarro hit a three-run home run on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, but he didn’t travel to Glendale for the game against the Dodgers, which means he didn’t see Castillo’s long ball.
“I guess he knows what I did,” Castillo joked. “If he asks me I’m going to let him know, 'I hit one longer than you.'”
Cubs' starter/long reliever Carlos Villanueva couldn’t get out of the first inning on Monday against the Dodgers, but that’s only because the first batter he faced this spring saw 16 pitches before finally going down on strikes.
"In a perfect world it would have been six up and six down but it happens,” Villanueva said after the game. “Made me focus, got him out, maybe lost a little focus after that.”
Villanueva walked the next two batters and eventually was pulled after giving up two runs and throwing about 30 pitches.
“He was good,” Castillo said. “The leadoff hitter, I think that was the key to getting him out of the first inning. They fouled a lot of balls.”
Villanueva started 29 games for the Toronto Blue Jays over the past two years while pitching out of the bullpen 42 times. He knows things can change in the rotation at any time as it did in Toronto when three starters went down in five days last year.
“That was unbelievable,” Villanueva said.
It gave him a chance to be back in the rotation, at least for a while.
“It won’t change my mentality or the way I pitch,” he said about starting or relieving. “I’ve been around a little bit. I know how things are... I’m an employee here and whatever I need to do to help this team win is what I’m going to do.”
Dontrelle Willis threw seven pitches before leaving the game on Monday with shoulder tightness. He suffered the loss.
“This is a minor setback I think," Willis said. "Hopefully it isn’t anything major. I think it is probably fatigue, so I will go back to the yard and let them give me some TLC. I will overcome it, it has happened to me before. I will just go back to the drawing board."
Steve Clevenger had two hits against the Dodgers.