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Victor Caratini makes long-shot, final-week push for Cubs’ backup catcher job

Caratini this spring.

LAS VEGAS — So where exactly does Victor Caratini think he stands in the Cubs’ backup catcher picture?

“Tough question,” Caratini said.

With a week to go before the Cubs break camp in Arizona, Caratini holds out hope that he’ll be with the club when it opens the season in Miami, even though the Cubs have implied since camp opened that the job of Willson Contreras’ backup was veteran Chris Gimenez’s to lose.

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“I’m trying to do everything I can to stay in the big leagues,” said Caratini, who was pressed into a major-league debut last June when the Cubs released veteran Miguel Montero over critical comments he made about Jake Arrieta after a game in Washington.

“It’s not my decision. It’s the Cubs’ decision, the [front] office,” Caratini said.

The switch-hitting Caratini wound up playing 66 games as a rookie, and after an 0-for-9 start at the plate, he was 15-for-50 (.300).

He has looked more comfortable this spring, in the clubhouse and at the plate, even as he continues to learn behind the plate.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel like I’ve had really good at-bats and [done well] on defense, calling the game and [building] good relationships with the pitchers.”

But when he was paired up with Rob Zastryzny in the Cubs’ split-squad game against the Indians in Las Vegas on Sunday, it was probably a glimpse into the Cubs’ Class AAA battery, at least to start the season.

With the Cubs among the World Series favorites and carrying a veteran pitching staff, the veteran Gimenez looks like the better fit to back up second-year starter Contreras. And pitchers have raved about the new Cub.

“On the other hand, Caratini’s been looking really good, too,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Behind the plate and at the plate. It’s a good spot for us to be in.”

Caratini — ranked third, fourth, sixth or eighth, depending on the publication, among Cubs prospects this spring — would be able to start regularly at Iowa and could be more prepared if needed this season.

Either way, he said, “I’ll try to do the same as I did last year: try to work hard and keep learning and do my job.”

Ramblers fever

The Cubs have joined the rest of Chicago on the Loyola men’s basketball bandwagon.

<em>Maddon’s ride</em>
Maddon’s ride

Players including Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester tweeted support after the Ramblers’ second upset in the NCAA tournament Saturday against Tennessee.

Maddon even offered the team a ride in the 1985 station wagon he’s been driving around the Phoenix area this spring — 1985 being the last year Loyola was in the tournament.

Sister Jean [Schmidt] might want to go for an ice cream cone in that thing,” Maddon told reporters in Mesa on Sunday. “The Ramblers, they can all fit — Sister Jean and the starting five.”

Grimm keeper

That didn’t take long. Less than a week after being released by the Cubs, reliever Justin Grimm signed a $1.25 million deal with the Royals. That makes his total 2018 salary about $1.8 million, including termination pay from the Cubs.

Grimm, who was a key part of the Cubs’ 2016 championship bullpen, struggled last season with a 5.53 ERA in 50 games and spent time in the minors. He pitched in four games for the Cubs this spring, allowing four walks and two homers in four innings.

“I didn’t think it would take long,” Maddon told reporters. “He has a great arm. He’s got a good reputation, and he’s a good teammate. I hope it works out well.”

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Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com