By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) This will be a big year for Cubs catcher Welington Castillo, as he attempts to become the a team leader as he enters his second season as a lineup regular.
But the road to credibility hasn’t always been an easy one for the affable young player.
“I know there were pitchers that didn’t prefer to throw to me last year,” Castillo said Thursday. “I did not take it in a bad way. I had a lot to learn about catching in the major leagues.”
Working hard with catching coach Mike Borzello and pitching coach Chris Bosio, Castillo was told last year just to concentrate on defense in the first half of 2013 in order to establish himself with the pitching staff. Former starter Matt Garza started the anti-Castillo sentiment by saying in public he wanted to have Dioner Navarro behind the plate in his starts. That triggered other starters asking for Navarro on days they started.
“I understood all of that,” Castillo said. “It was my job to win their confidence. Hey, Navarro had been around a long time. He learned how to handle older guys and stand up to them. I am still learning my way, and I believe they trust me to catch their games.”
When Navarro had problems establishing himself early in his career, Garza called him out in their days together in Tampa.
“I was told that by Navarro,” Castillo said. “That is the game, proving yourself to pitchers is a big part of the thing for a catcher. I am very confident in my catching and relationships with our guys.”
Many baseball people believe that Castillo can be an All Star in the league for years to come with continued development. He hit .274 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 380 at-bats last season, when he played in 113 games.
“I believe that I will be a consistent player,” said Castillo, who turns 27 on April 24. “I believe I will have a good year at the plate. This is my second year, so I am ready to step up my game.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.