Dioner Navarro will catch the majority of games the rest of the season with Welington Castillo out with a knee injury. The veteran already has been invaluable to the Cubs this season.
Hitting .303 with a career-high 13 home runs and 34 RBI—including six game winning RBI—the switch-hitter will be coveted in 2014.
“What he’s done with the big hits and the home runs in a small sample are about as good as you can get from that position,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. “Welington has put himself in a position where he’ll catch more games next year, so the sample [for the backup] will be a lot smaller. But you have to have people who have depth in case something happens.
“He understands this is what it is,’’ he said of Navarro’s back-up role. “You have to enjoy that as much as an everyday player enjoys that.’’
Navarro has been good enough to bat cleanup, with his switch-hitting ability enhancing his value there.
But he also has been strong behind the plate in handling the pitching staff, with the pitching staff posting a 3.86 ERA when he has caught games.
He also has been a mentor for Castillo.
“He’s done a great job with Weli,’’ Sveum said. “It’s nice to have people who know that’s their role and when they’re called upon, they can do the best they can.’’
JUNIOR’S FRESHMAN YEAR
So much of the focus has been on the Cubs minor league prospects, but Junior Lake’s rookie year arguably has been one of the team’s best “youth’’ stories. After six minor league seasons as an infielder, Lake, 23, debuted after the All-Star break with a bang and his 67 hits since the All-Star break are the most among rookies.
He has continued to hit while learning to play the outfield at the major league level.
He is hitting .305 with six homers and 16 RBI overall, but is hitting .340 in September, not unlike he did when he began his career with a 3-for-4 game and seven-game hitting streak.
Sveum said Lake’s hitting development will include learning to better handle two-strike situations and adjusting to how pitchers adjust to him. “But obviously he’s hitting .300 in the big leagues and doing some good things at the plate and learning in the same process.
“The learning process is still going on in the outfield,’’ Sveum said of Lake’s defensive conversion. “He just needs a lot more reps, whether it’s winter ball and then spring training just to see balls off the bat. You can take all the fungos you want, but in the outfield it’s just not the same as fly balls off the bat.’’
Sveum said Lake probably will play winter ball this off season.