Learing English A Big Part Of Cubs' Castillo's Progress

CHICAGO—Welington Castillo has never been given anything in his career. Nothing changed this spring but Castillo made the most of a chance to start a game here and to pick up an inning behind the plate there.

At the end of a 17-game stint in the Cactus League this spring in which he had 19 at-bats, the 24-year-old Castillo had himself a .632 batting average. And he had showcased a plus arm and quick release while doing a solid job handling the Cubs' big league staff.

"I'm really proud of him," farm director Oneri Fleita said. "It's been a tough road for him."

The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Castillo has advanced one step at a time since signing in 2004 and spending the '05 season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He earned his visa there but has developed slowly, in part because he had to master English and develop a rapport with North American-born pitchers.
All cylinders seem to be clicking in 2011.

"If he'll keep his nose to the grindstone and do what he's done the last year, he's going to get better and better, and he'll have some kind of future," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

Castillo got a taste of the big leagues in 2010. He could have opened the season as a backup to Geovany Soto, but Koyie Hill maintained that position despite a horrible spring at the plate.

Having claimed Max Ramirez on waivers, the Cubs sent Castillo to high Class A Daytona to open the season. But he was promoted to Triple-A Iowa after the first two weeks and is likely to get the spot if Quade needs a catcher.

Castillo hit .255/.317/.498 with 13 homers in 69 games at Iowa a year ago. The Cubs hope he can build off that, as he got off to a 12-for-48 start this year with Iowa. Fleita feels he has turned a corner, largely because he worked as hard off the field as on it.

"It can be really tough for a catcher who doesn't speak English," Fleita said. "You have to work with the pitcher. You have to have his confidence, his trust. As a young kid, it's real easy to get behind the 8-ball, to lose that trust … As much as anything on the field, the work he's done on learning the language has allowed him to climb the ladder."


• Infielder Arismendy Alcantara, a 19-year-old switch-hitter, got off to a fast start at low Class A Peoria, driving in 16 runs in 20 games. He was shuttling between shortstop and third base.

• Double-A Tennessee first baseman Rebel Ridling was leading the Southern League in batting at the end of April. He was hitting .388 in 22 games.