Cubs prospect catching on to new role
Former shortstop Clevenger learning nuances behind the plate
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs have two catchers who have been converted into pitchers in Carlos Marmol and Randy Wells, but they also have a shortstop who has been converted into a catcher in Steve Clevenger.
Clevenger, 22, was among the five players sent to the Cubs' Minor League camp on Friday, but he heads down the street to Fitch Park with a better understanding of his job.
He was an infielder when drafted by the Cubs in the seventh round in 2006 and sent to Class A Boise. The last two days of instructional camp, he tried on catcher's gear. The following January, he was told he was coming to camp as a catcher.
"It's a little different than the infield," Clevenger said. "You've got to carry all the gear everywhere. The position is more demanding. It's a lot of work. It's a totally different perspective. As a shortstop, you're looking in, and as a catcher, you see everybody on the field. It's a totally different game. You've got to be really into it."
The Cubs like Clevenger's bat -- he has a .307 Minor League average -- and liked that he had good hands to handle the switch. Clevenger wasn't convinced at first.
"I really enjoy it now," he said. "At first, I didn't know if I would like it but I actually enjoy it now. You've really got to want to do it and you've got to put in the time."
He adjusted his offseason workouts to focus more on his legs than his upper body and added more running to help build endurance. A left-handed hitter, Clevenger said he was told he might have a better chance at getting to the big leagues if he could catch.
The hardest part?
"I'd say blocking," Clevenger said. "That was the hardest thing for me to really get down. I was so used to picking up the ball. Now, it's sacrifice your body and get in front of it."
The throwing came easy. He still has to improve his footwork. What about calling a game?
"Calling a game was fine for me," Clevenger said. "I thought it was easy to figure out hitters a little bit. I still have a lot to learn at the higher levels of how guys approach things but [calling a game] was one of the easiest things I picked up."
He now heads to the Cubs' Minor League camp, where he'll get more playing time behind the plate. Besides Clevenger, the Cubs also assigned right-handed pitcher Brian Schlitter and left-handers J.R. Mathes and Matt Smith to Minor League camp. Outfielder Richie Robnett was optioned to Triple-A Iowa as well to trim the roster to 53.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.