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Catching heavy Cubs suddenly thin at spot

PHILADELPHIA – So much for all that catching depth as the Cubs were nearly hanging by a thread Saturday night.

Welington Castillo was called up to replace an injured Steve Clevenger (oblique strain), while regular catcher Geovany Soto was also ailing with an upper back strain.

In fact, Soto’s back strain is how the Cubs found out about Clevenger’s side injury in the first place. Clevenger hurt himself in batting practice Friday night but didn’t say anything right away.

Soto, meanwhile, started to feel back discomfort after working a walk against Roy Halladay in Friday’s game. He informed the coaching staff to have Clevenger ready just in case it got worse.

Clevenger went into the batting cage to take some swings but the pain was too much to continue hiding the injury. Soto ended up finishing out Friday’s game and was actually listed as the starting catcher Saturday before he was scratched in favor of Castillo.

“It’s upper back and it’s not biggie,” Soto said. “Today it was fine. They told me to just relax for today and tomorrow and see what happens. But I’m totally fine and if they need to use me I’m fine to go in at any time.”

Even when he is at full strength, Soto figures to play less than he did when Clevenger was his backup.

“I might play Castillo a little more just because he’s a catcher that’s caught all the time every day and a guy that can swing the bat as well and a guy that has been playing well and can stop a running game,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He might play a little bit more than Clevenger. Soto is still the everyday guy.”

For now, Soto is saying that all the catching competition is a good thing, but Castillo and Clevenger appear to be pushing him out of town. Even if Soto isn’t traded during the season, he has one more year of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency after the 2013 season and could be non-tendered this winter.

“The better they get, the better you get,” said Soto, who is batting just .135 this season with one RBI. “It’s great to see them. I saw them since they were in A ball and it’s rewarding to see they’re doing great. It’s kind of humbling when you see those guys come up and be right next to you. It’s an interesting experience and I’m glad they’re doing great. To help the club is the most important thing.”