Clevenger Forces His Way Into Cubs' Catching Picture





CHICAGO—A shortstop when he was drafted, Steve Clevenger long ago completed the transition to catcher. It shouldn't take much longer for him to complete the climb to Wrigley Field.

"I think he could play in the big leagues now," said Brian Harper, the former major league catcher who manages Clevenger at Double-A Tennessee.

Clevenger, 25, has long been considered a player who could get to Chicago based on his lefthanded bat and ability to play elsewhere. He's a .307 career hitter, with a good idea of the strike zone and the coverage to fight off tough pitches. Clevenger, a seventh-round pick in 2006, also does a good job behind the plate, tapping into his athleticism to become a catcher whom pitchers like throwing to.

"He can hit, and he can catch," Harper said. "He's one of the best receivers I've ever seen. He really receives good."

Harper knows catching, and he says Clevenger's stock has risen this season because of how well he has handled the chance to catch five games a week. In previous seasons, he played behind the organization's more advanced prospects, mostly Welington Castillo and Robinson Chirinos.

He returned for a fourth year in Double-A because farm director Oneri Fleita wanted to give him a chance to start. When Castillo was called up to fill in while Geovany Soto was on the disabled list in May, Clevenger moved to Triple-A Iowa. He hit .412 with three homers there, giving him a combined average of .317 with seven home runs.

Cubbyhole

• Tennessee righthander Trey McNutt has worked into the seventh inning only once in his 13 starts this season. He battled blisters in April and then was sidelined for a month after bruising his ribs in a collision fielding a pop-up.

• The Cubs promoted center fielders Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur to Iowa and high Class A Daytona, respectively. Jackson might have moved sooner but had been sidelined with a broken finger early in the season.