03/26/08 5:51 PM ET
Soto looking forward to Opening Day
Rookie catcher would be first to start season since '89
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"I was just telling Henry [Blanco], 'Wow, I've never seen this locker room so empty,'" Soto said Wednesday. "I'm always in the second round [of cuts] who's sent to the Minors.
"It's good and rewarding, and it's starting to be real," Soto said. "It's starting to get to me in a good way. It's not more pressure. I played in the playoffs, I played in late September in the pennant race. It's not pressure, but I'm getting anxious and ready for this to start so I can get my dream on."
Soto, the MVP of the Pacific Coast League after hitting .353 for Triple-A Iowa last season, will be the Cubs' first rookie catcher to start the opener since Joe Girardi did so in 1989. Is he nervous?
"I wouldn't call it nervous -- I've been around and in tough situations," Soto said. "I'm just anxious because you work so hard to get here and you get the opportunity. I just want to work as hard as I can to stay here. This is what I've wanted to do since I was five years old."
He does have big league experience. Soto has been called up the last three seasons to the Cubs, and last year, got the nod to start two games in the National League Division Series. He has a .325 batting average in his brief big league experience, but was hitting .235 in 18 games this spring.
"He's had a little bit of a learning curve here in Spring Training," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I don't think it was as easy as he thought coming in. He's starting to swing the bat here at the end of Spring Training, which is a good sign. At the same time he's done a very reasonable job with our pitching."
The Cubs have not given Soto any pitching plans or scouting reports to work on, and Piniella said he expected that to help Soto when the regular season starts.
"I can't wait," Soto said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.