6/4/2014 8:41 P.M. ET
Well-prepped Baker ready for starting role
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- With Welington Castillo on the disabled list with a strained left rib cage, John Baker is now the Cubs' regular catcher. He's already started 14 games behind the plate, two more than he did last season with the Padres.
Baker didn't get a chance to catch the Cubs' starters much in Spring Training, but he has caught their bullpen sessions, and he's done so on purpose.
"I feel that as the backup catcher, that's something you have to do in case this type of situation happens, so you're prepared, and you know what the ball does," Baker said of knowing a pitcher's tendencies. "You don't want to go in there blind -- 'Hey, what have you got, bud?'"
Baker said that he has to always be ready.
"In my position, it's different than playing left field," he said. "I'm always ready to play every day. Nothing changes in my routine now, except I take it a little bit easier in the weight room, and I don't do as much extra stuff."
Cubs narrowing list of Draft options
CHICAGO -- The Cubs, who have the fourth overall pick in Thursday's First-Year Player Draft, have narrowed their list of potential selections to about a half-dozen, general manager Jed Hoyer said.
The Cubs' scouting and baseball operations staffs had a three-hour debate on Wednesday afternoon about which player to choose, and Hoyer expected another spirited discussion later in the day.
"Certainly, the two picks we make [on Thursday] are a significant investment, and you want to make sure you have all the information and you double back on medical reports, double back on background information," Hoyer said. "You want to make sure you don't leave any stone unturned with two picks."
In addition to the No. 4 pick, the Cubs have the 45th.
"One of the things we focus on a ton is the makeup and figuring out which guys can handle [the media] and which guys can handle the pressure," Hoyer said. "You're going to play in a big market, and coming from Boston, we learned pretty quickly that some guys can handle the scrutiny and some guys are better off in a smaller market. You only get 40 picks, so you make sure you bring guys into the organization who can have a positive influence."
However, the Cubs aren't sure what the Astros, Marlins and White Sox, who pick ahead of them, will do.
"I have a feeling that last year, if you were sitting at [No. 4], you had a good sense of which three players would go ahead," Hoyer said. "I don't think that's the case this year.
"Houston, we don't expect to know what they're going to do until they announce the pick on TV. They've done that two years in a row. I wouldn't expect that to change. Guessing what Houston will do at [No. 1] is pretty fruitless."
The Cubs took position players Albert Almora and Kris Bryant with their first-round selections in the past two years under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Hoyer hopes rehabbing Soler can chat with Manny
CHICAGO -- Jorge Soler, sidelined since mid-May with a strained right hamstring, is rehabbing at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., and general manager Jed Hoyer said the team hopes the outfielder has a chance to talk hitting with new player-coach Manny Ramirez.
Soler, ranked No. 5 on MLB.com's list of the Cubs' top 20 prospects, is doing agility work and hitting in the batting cages. He has not played in extended spring games. Ramirez did play on Wednesday, hitting a home run in Tempe, and is expected to soon join Triple-A Iowa, possibly by the weekend.
The Cubs haven't asked Ramirez to talk to Soler, but Hoyer hopes the two players will chat.
"I think Manny can help any right-handed hitter, for sure," Hoyer said.
This is the second straight season in which Soler has been limited because of injuries.
"The concern is losing at-bats," Hoyer said. "At some point you need to play and go out there and face pitching. He's had Spring Training the last two years, and missed three quarters of the year. That's big development time to miss. Hopefully, we can get him healthy this time and keep him on the field for the rest of the year."
Soler injured the hamstring after his first at-bat for Double-A Tennessee and has been limited to seven games with the Smokies. He missed time in Spring Training with a sore left hamstring.
Cubs honor prospects Bryant, Blackburn
CHICAGO -- The Cubs on Wednesday named Double-A Tennessee's Kris Bryant and Class A Kane County's Paul Blackburn the organization's Minor League player and pitcher of the month for May, respectively.
Bryant, 22, led the Southern League with a .407 batting average, 30 runs, seven doubles, 12 home runs, 34 RBIs and 17 walks in 29 May games. He also led the league with an OPS of 1.298, including an on-base percentage of .492 and a slugging percentage of .806.
The third baseman, who is ranked as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, had multiple hits in 14 of 29 games, including a pair of four-hit games. Twice in the month he was named the league's player of the week.
The second overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, Bryant was named to the Southern League All-Star team on Tuesday.
Blackburn, 20, went 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in five May starts for Kane County, walking five and striking out 26. He held opponents to one or no runs in four of his five outings.
A sandwich round pick in the 2012 Draft, Blackburn is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 10 walks in 10 starts this season. He is ranked by MLB.com as the club's No. 14 prospect.
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.