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Chicago Cubs 25-Man Roster Is Set, Much To The Chagrin Of Many Fans

The Chicago Cubs play their last spring training game today against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In other words, it's all over but the shouting. The same can be said about the team's 25-man roster, which finally came together yesterday with the announcement that many fans have been dreading (or, perhaps, waiting gleefully to rage about).

I'm referring to the team's backup catcher, of course. Yes, that was the last roster spot remaining open after the bullpen settled into place, and Carlos Silva pitched and bitched his way off of the team over the weekend. The 32-year-old Koyie Hill was awarded the lauded position of replacement backstop -- and that's why many Cubs fans are hoppin' mad.

You see, Koyie Hill is not what you'd call a "strong hitter." His career (774 plate appearances) batting average/on-base percentage/slugging line is .215/.276/.302 (.578 OPS, .255 wOBA). That's actually not bad -- for a pitcher. And, to make matters worse, Cubs fans watched 23-year-old catching prospect Welington Castillo put up video game numbers -- .632/.696/.842 -- in 19 spring training at-bats this year. The Cubs also had a 26-year-old catcher waiver-claim catcher in camp, Max Ramirez. He's generally considered a good-hitting backstop, and he showed that in Cactus League play. Ramirez was placed back on waivers yesterday.

Of course, baseball is not just offense. It's also baserunning and defense. Taking the former out of the equation (we are talking about a backup catcher here), Hill was considered a pretty solid defensive catcher up until last season -- when he failed to gun down many base stealers (only eight, after throwing out 20 the season before) and made a few other garish mistakes. Like the entire team, he didn't get off to a great start defensively this spring either.

So why do the Cubs stick with him? As far as I can tell, it's because Mike Quade -- and, perhaps more importantly, pitching coach Mark Riggins -- see him more as a player/coach than just a backup catcher. He apparently knows what the coaching staff wants from its pitchers and can communicate that system or philosophy very effectively both on the field and in the clubhouse.

And even though the team will naturally swear up and down that it intends to contend this year, 2011 is still nonetheless a transitional year of sorts with several big contracts expiring and youngsters (Andrew Cashner, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Tyler Colvin) looking to take the next step toward solidifying their respective roles with the team. So they need Koyie's presence for stability or, to use a work I read somewhere or other recently, "continuity."

That's the best I can do, really. Cubs fans will just have to hope starting catcher Geovany Soto can finally have that 120- to 140-game season that's eluded him so far. Otherwise, we'll have to hope the team is quick to put Geo on the disabled list and call up the aforementioned Castillo in his absence. Koyie Hill seems like a great guy and his inclusion on the 25-man alone won't make or break the Cubs season. But, combined with the pitcher, his presence in the batting order will create a black hole of epic proportions should Soto have another injury-addled season.

Deep breath. Now here's a complete look at the North Siders' 25-man roster:

Starting lineup

1. Kosuke Fukudome RF

2. Starlin Castro SS

3. Geovany Soto C

4. Aramis Ramirez 3B

5. Carlos Pena 1B

6. Alfonso Soriano LF

7. Marlon Byrd CF

8. Darwin Barney 2B


9. Jeff Baker IF/OF

10. Blake DeWitt IF

11. Koyie Hill C

12. Tyler Colvin OF

13. Reed Johnson OF

Starting rotation

14. Carlos Zambrano RHP

15. Ryan Dempster RHP

16. Matt Garza RHP

17. Randy Wells RHP

18. Andrew Cashner RHP


19. Carlos Marmol RHP

20. Kerry Wood RHP

21. Sean Marshall LHP

22. John Grabow LHP

23. Jeff Samardzija RHP

24. Marcus Mateo RHP

25. James Russell LHP