02/21/12 4:54 PM EST
Jaramillo looking to fill backup-catcher void
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
There are six catchers in Chicago's spring camp, including starter Geovany Soto, and the fight for the backup job appears to be a battle between Welington Castillo, Jason Jaramillo and Steve Clevenger.
"I think it's an open competition, especially since the only one I've seen play in person is Jaramillo, when he was with the Pirates," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Tuesday. "It's great competition, and they all have a lot of great attributes to bring to a team. It'll be an interesting fight."
Jaramillo signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs on Jan. 18 after spending the last three seasons with the Pirates.
"I talked to a few teams and had the option to pick where I was going," Jaramillo said Tuesday. "Getting the chance to talk to Theo [Epstein] and Dale, I liked the opportunity here. I understand there's no guarantees. It's not something I'm not accustomed to. I battled my way for three years in Pittsburgh. The competition is nothing new to me. I'm happy to be here, they said it's a good opportunity. Everything I've seen so far -- the staff, the players -- it's really exciting. I'm really excited to be here."
Jaramillo, originally drafted by the Phillies, appeared in 119 games over three seasons with the Pirates. He is very familiar with Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm, who signed as a free agent after coming up in the Pirates system.
Besides having at least one friendly face in Maholm, Jaramillo was looking forward to working with his "uncle," hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. The two actually are not related, but Jason jokes that they must have some connection.
"It's another plus [to work with Jaramillo]," Jason said of the hitting coach. "Defensively, I feel I bring a lot to the table. I understand the role and I just want to take it one day at a time. I know how that sounds, but I have to take that mentality."
Sveum in process of appraising 'pen options
MESA, Ariz. -- In a perfect world, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, he would have two left-handers in his bullpen, but he wouldn't consider either to be the prime setup man -- that's Kerry Wood's job.
With Sean Marshall gone via trade to the Reds, the Cubs don't have a designated lefty setup reliever. Sveum didn't sound as if he minded -- so long as he can call on Wood.
"There's got to be a lot of confidence from me coming from that spot to take Kerry Wood out of the game, because there's a lefty coming up," Sveum said Tuesday. "Those last three outs are the biggest of the game and the three outs leading up to that are even bigger. Some guys are just built differently than other people, as far as those outs."
Among the lefties in the mix are James Russell, Jeff Beliveau, Scott Maine, Trever Miller and John Gaub. Although Russell would like to take over Marshall's role, Sveum described him as a "matchup guy" for now.
"He's got the ability and endurance to go two innings," Sveum said of Russell. "It all depends on what's going on, the score of the game, what [the opposing team has] on the bench. He's a guy who can go two innings, no doubt about it."
Miller is a non-roster invitee who has pitched for the Tigers, Astros, Phillies, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Rays, Cardinals and Red Sox.
"He knows how to get left-handers out, and that's a big asset to have, depending on how your bullpen unfolds," Sveum said.
Josh Vitters was sad to see Chris Carpenter go to the Red Sox as part of the compensation for Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. Vitters was one of the players whom Boston was considering. "I'm definitely glad it turned out not being me," he said.
Said Cubs manager Dale Sveum: "Unfortunately, we lost a great arm in Chris. Fortunately for him, it came from a team that wanted him really, really, really bad and I think he'll fall into some competition over there, too, to make the team as well as he had here. As well, he gets to go to a great organization and a great city. He leaves one great place and gets to go to another one. That's not a bad way to be traded for the first time."
The Cubs selected right-handed pitcher Lendy Castillo in the Rule 5 Draft and must decide by Opening Day whether to keep him on the 25-man roster. Castillo threw on the side Tuesday for the second time this spring, but Sveum wants to see him in games.
"The bottom line is what's going on in those games when he gets innings to pitch," Sveum said. "I've been around plenty of people -- not that he's doing anything wrong -- but some people are different pitchers when they're on the mound than when they're throwing in the bullpen."
Brett Jackson, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2009 Draft, is one of the early bird position players in camp. Sveum sounded just like a fan when he said he was looking forward to seeing the outfielder in games.
"I'll give him a lot of opportunities to play in camp and see what this young man is capable of doing against quality big league pitching," Sveum said. "I'll try to put him in against quality big league pitchers to see how he reacts. To watch him the other day in person for the first time, to see how the ball comes off his bat and just the athleticism, that guy bounces around with athleticism. He's one of those guys you look forward to seeing."
There are motivational messages on the players' daily schedule, such as "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." That's the work of bench coach Jamie Quirk, who relies on a book for the daily selection.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.