MESA, Ariz. -- Koyie Hill was 1-for-32 this spring, while Welington Castillo was 12-for-19. Wouldn't the Cubs rather keep Castillo as the backup catcher? No, manager Mike Quade said.

"If he'll keep his nose to the grindstone and do what he's done the last year, he's going to get better and better, and he'll have some kind of future," Quade said of Castillo, who was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. "The sky's the limit for this guy."

The Cubs want Castillo to play every day, and he's not going to bump Geovany Soto from the job as regular catcher.

"To me, he's not ready to take that role on as every day, ready to be a something-special catcher," Quade said. "He needs at-bats, and he needs to go play. Sitting next to me and playing a day or two a week is not going to get it.

"Also, if something happens, God forbid, [to Soto] you want [Castillo] playing and understanding and not just swinging the bat but working the pitchers. [Castillo's] got a long ways to go development-wise. He could watch and observe, but there's nothing like playing to get better."

Hill has a lifetime .215 average in the big leagues.

"He understands his role, and he's able to perform that role," Quade said of Hill. "Coming off the bench once a week ain't that easy, and he's done it very well. His relationship with our pitching staff and the way he's conducted himself goes a long way with me. He and [Soto] play well off each other."

Quade can understand the fans' asking about the roster.

"Heck, my mom will ask me those questions," he said.

She's offered him some suggestions, too, but Quade hasn't applied any.

He hasn't applied any of their advice. Not yet.

"She wants explanations, and if she doesn't get them from [the media], guess what, I'm next," Quade said. "The sad part is I think she listens to [the media] before she listens to me."

Byrd scratched with stiff back as precaution

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd was scratched from Tuesday's lineup because of a stiff back but is expected to be ready for Friday's season opener.

Byrd played seven innings on Monday in the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Indians in Goodyear and reported on Tuesday with some soreness. Manager Mike Quade said he's just trying to be cautious.

"I'd just as soon get on the plane right now and get out of here because we're healthy," Quade said. "There are a lot of clubs that aren't, and that's a huge plus in this deal. I'm as happy right now as I can be."

Quade's not taking any chances.

"If you come in with a hangnail now, you get a day or two off," Quade said.

Colvin earns Quade's confidence at first base

MESA, Ariz. -- Last year, Tyler Colvin won a spot on the Opening Day roster because of a strong spring. But this spring has been different for Colvin. He does have a spot on the Cubs' 25-man roster, but he's not just looked at as an outfielder. He's also a backup first baseman.

"It's been fun to go over there and take ground balls," Colvin said.

Colvin didn't come to camp thinking he could coast through his Cactus League at-bats.

"Careers in baseball don't last that long," Colvin said Tuesday. "You see a lot of guys get up here and they don't last. I guess their drive isn't there or whatever it is. You always have to be working because you have to remember, at one point you were that guy in the Minor Leagues trying to work your tail off to be on the team. You have to come in and work hard and earn your spot."

Cubs manager Mike Quade said Colvin had played well enough this spring at first that he wouldn't hesitate to use him there.

"That's good that he has confidence in me," Colvin said. "I'll be ready for it this year if anything happens. I have to always wear a cup now and have the other glove, that's the biggest thing."

That's right, folks. Outfielders don't wear protective cups.

Quade optimistic despite popular speculation

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs enter their final Cactus League game Tuesday with a 14-18 record and are not being picked as favorites to win the National League Central.

"I hope they're wrong," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of the prognosticators. "I'm a big fan of whatever underdog status people want to give. You guys get paid to speculate and write, and fans are wondering. It's all good. We hope to prove those who don't think we'll be very good wrong.

"I'm optimistic, and very optimistic, and it starts with pitching," Quade said. "If you've got good pitching, and I think we do, there's no reason to not be optimistic, and I don't care what anyone else says."

The Cubs aren't the only underdogs. Look at VCU and Butler, both in the NCAA Final Four.

"I'm not into the VCU or the Butler or the Rodney Dangerfield of coaching right now," he said.

Extra bases

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced Tuesday that two Cubs Minor League players have received 50-game suspensions after each violated the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Catcher Erick Castillo, who was currently on the roster of the Cubs' Dominican Summer League team, tested positive for DHEA. Minor League pitcher Amalio Reyes, who was also on the roster of the Dominican Summer League team, tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol. The suspensions of Castillo and Reyes will be effective at the start of the 2011 Dominican Summer League season.