2/23/2014 4:30 P.M. ET
Kottaras' new dog becomes staple of Cubs camp
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs may have officially announced Clark the bear as the team mascot, but in Spring Training, it's George Kottaras' yellow lab, Leo.
The eight-month-old dog waits patiently near the Cubs' complex while Kottaras participates in workouts. Occasionally, Leo will bark, and usually one of the security guards takes him for a walk. It's Kottaras' first dog.
"I'm 30, single, no kids -- that's my boy," Kottaras said of the dog, which he named after Leonidas, who was king of the Greek city-state of Sparta. Kottaras' parents are both from Sparta.
"It's my first child. He acts like a child. He's playful and the 100-percent love he gives is amazing."
Kottaras considered a rescue dog, but instead bought Leo from a breeder. He makes sure Leo gets plenty of exercise in the morning while he does his early cardio work.
"He's been awesome," Kottaras said. "He's only been with a trainer four, five times. There's been a lot of little disciplinary things and a lot of patience, but for eight months old, he's been a treat."
Considering all the distractions and balls being thrown around, Leo has been well behaved in that he stays on a bed near the workout area, chewing on his toys or sleeping.
Kottaras did check with Cubs manager Rick Renteria to make sure it was all right to bring his pet.
"Everybody seems to love him and it's been a good spot for him," Kottaras said. "You can't not pet a dog and not feel good. He puts smiles on guys' faces."
Cubs educate Castillo with examples of greatness
MESA, Ariz. -- Mickey Cochrane was the latest addition to the gallery near Cubs catcher Welington Castillo's locker.
Every day, Cubs coach Mike Borzello hands Castillo a picture of a Hall of Fame catcher with his stats on the other side of the paper. The "Wall of Fame" includes Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and now Cochrane.
"[Borzello] says, 'Just look at the numbers and how many years he's played, what he hit for his whole life, MVP,'" Castillo said Sunday. "I do a little bit of homework and know who they are. There's a lot of guys and I don't know who they are."
The education is to help Castillo, 26, who is entering his second season as the Cubs' full-time catcher. Last year, he batted .274 and set career highs in games (113), home runs (eight), and RBIs (32).
This spring should be easier. Castillo has a better feel for the staff, knows what pitching coach Chris Bosio wants, and how to handle the rigors of a long season. And he knows the Cubs are underdogs in the National League Central.
"I want to play, I want to go out and play and have fun," Castillo said. "What can we do? No names -- we've got no names. I think we're going to do good. There's a lot of young people, young guys who want to do everything to win. I can see it in their eyes -- 'I'm ready, I'm hungry.' Like, 'Throw me in the jungle, I'm going to get out of there.' I can't wait for the games."
He'll have to wait until Thursday, when the team christens new Cubs Park in west Mesa with a game against the D-backs. Castillo has been slowed a little this spring because of some soreness in his groin. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus in September and worked on conditioning, not catching, this winter.
"I didn't do anything as a catcher this offseason," Castillo said. "I started doing everything right away hard [in camp] and I'm just a little tight. They told me, 'We need you for the whole season, so take it easy.'"
The good news is that his knee is fine, and there's no soreness or pain.
"[The soreness is from] a lot of squats and stuff like that," Castillo said. "I feel good. I feel hungry to play. Every day I ask, 'When are the games going to start?'"
Two other catchers in Cubs camp, George Kottaras and John Baker, joined Castillo's wall on Sunday. At least he has seen them play.
"I never saw those other guys play," he said of Berra and Cochrane. "They're really good catchers."
The Cubs feel the same about Castillo.
• The Cubs will test their new spring ballpark, Cubs Park, on Wednesday with an intrasquad game. The six-inning game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. MT, and prospects Kyle Hendricks and Eric Jokisch will start.
Hendricks was the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, and Jokisch threw a no-hitter last season for Double-A Tennessee.
The team will get a look at the new stadium Monday with a workout there, Renteria said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out and how we can combine the use of the [practice] fields during the rest of the spring," Renteria said. "The next couple days will give us a little test."
The Cubs open the Cactus League season Thursday at their new home stadium against the D-backs.
"The workouts are going great, but I think everyone is anxious to get in a game," Renteria said.
The drills have been going so well that on Sunday the Cubs trimmed some of the agility work out of the schedule.
"I'd rather be able to pull somebody back than try to get 'em going," Renteria said. "These guys are giving me the opportunity to say, 'Hey, let's tone it down a little bit. Great work, but let's measure ourselves.'"
• Junior Lake had an ice bag on his left ankle Sunday, though more as a precautionary measure. Lake was limited to 10 games in Spring Training 2012 after fouling a ball off his ankle, and he fouled a ball off his left leg Sunday.
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.