Results tagged ‘ Dioner Navarro ’

From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with Dioner Navarro

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs backup catcher Dioner Navarro has been in the big leagues for 10 years, has gone to the postseason twice and was selected to the 2008 All-Star Game, but it’s unlikely he ever experienced a game like the one he played on May 25. The veteran backstop went 3-for-4 with three home runs, six RBI and a walk to lead the Cubs to a 9-3 win over the crosstown White Sox. Navarro has already blasted eight home runs this season—his career high is nine—and has taken on a valuable leadership role mentoring young Cubs catcher Welington Castillo. For the July issue of Vine Line, we talked to the 29-year-old Venezuelan about making the 2008 All-Star team, being a leader on the field and his growing menagerie.

ALL-STAR ACTION
 I think the All-Star Game is a goal for every individual player in the league. It doesn’t get any better than that. Once I realized I was surrounded with players like Manny Ramirez and Joe Mauer [in the 2008 game], I felt like part of a special group. It was really great for me. Watching Josh Hamilton [set a Home Run Derby record] and being part of a winning rally—I got a base hit off Brad Lidge to keep the 15th inning alive—was just amazing. It was a lot we had to go through in two or three days, but the end was well, well worth it. I had a blast. I took my son with me, so we both had a lot of fun.

BACKSTOP LEADER  As a catcher, I have the opportunity to communicate with a lot of different players. My No. 1 goal is to communicate with the pitcher and get on the same page—but still communicate with all the infielders. What I love about this position is that I get to hang out with guys of different cultures from all over the world. I try to get on a level [of trust] with everybody and keep everyone together as a family. In order for us to achieve our goals, there has to be a trust level between us. Once we are trusting of what we do, read and think, we’re going to be just fine.

FAMILY FIRST  My wife almost died in my hands [after having an aneurysm in 2003], and my son had his kidney removed when he was only 1. When all that happened, baseball came second in my life. I take the game a lot easier now, but I still respect it. Once the game is over, I know I get to go home and spend time with my family and then get ready for the next day.

MAN’S BEST FRIENDS  It all started with my wife. We went to the pet store to get my dog’s regular food, and she fell in love with a chameleon. From a chameleon, we went to a snake. From a snake, we went to Argentine tegu. Now we’ve got chinchillas, cats, dogs—we’ve got them all. I love animals, and my kids get to enjoy them too. It’s definitely a lot of fun during the offseason.

FOOTBALL FIEND  I’m a huge soccer fan—huge. I love it. In Venezuela, they play a lot of Spanish League, called “La Liga.” I grew up seeing Barcelona play, and ever since then I’ve just loved Barcelona. My brother had an opportunity to move to Spain, and he would bring back Barcelona gear to my little brother and me. I think my collection of jerseys spans about 50 years of soccer now. It’s a brilliant game, and I have a lot of respect for those guys.

To read the complete interview with Navarro, pick up the July All-Star issue of Vine Line, featuring the best seasons by a Cubs player at each position, available now at select Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Meijer, Barnes & Noble, and other Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.

1000 Words: Navarro’s Hat Trick

(Click photos to enlarge)

The Crosstown Cup can bring out the best in players. Exhibit A: Dioner Navarro. The free-swinging backup catcher was locked in Wednesday afternoon, ripping home runs in each of his three official plate appearances to lead the Cubs to a 9-3 victory over the White Sox.

Batting right-handed in the second and fourth innings, the 29-year-old switch-hitter took a pair of John Danks change-ups into the left-field stands. Then batting left-handed in the bottom of the seventh, he launched a Brian Omogrosso fastball down the right-field line onto Sheffield Avenue for his third homer of the day. Navarro finished 3-for-3 with three home runs, six RBI, four runs and a walk.

It was the first multi-homer game of Navarro’s career, and he became the first Cubs catcher to hit three homers in a game since George Mitterwald in 1974. After yesterday’s win and Tuesday’s rainout, the North Siders lead the Crosstown series 2-0. Travis Wood will take the mound for the Cubs Thursday afternoon, opposite Sox veteran Jake Peavy.

Castillo’s offense could make a difference

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs made starting pitching a priority this offseason, as evidenced by the addition of four experienced right-handers. However, the organization didn’t acquire an offensive version of Edwin Jackson—a headline name that will instantly bolster the lineup.

One potential reason they didn’t add a bat via free agency is that they’re banking on a hitter they already have in the system to step up this season. One likely spot for offensive improvement is at catcher, where 25-year-old Welington Castillo is primed to take over the starting job. Castillo showed in the second half of 2012 that he can compete at the major league level. He hit .265/.377/.418 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with five home runs in 170 at-bats last year, but much of that damage came after the All-Star break (.289/.353/.434, four home runs).

This offseason, the Cubs also brought in former All-Star catcher Dioner Navarro to both push the 25-year-old Castillo and give him some much-needed advice. Castillo will be batting fourth Thursday as the Cubs head to Camelback Ranch and take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chris Rusin, 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA on the spring, gets the start Thursday, and the Dodgers will send out lefty Chris Capuano. Cubs fans can listen to the game exclusively on Cubs.com. Here’s the Cubs’ lineup:

2B Darwin Barney
3B Brent Lillibridge
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
CF Dave Sappelt
SS Luis Valbuena
LF Darnell McDonald
1B Brad Nelson
P Chris Rusin

Cubs Notes: Ian Stewart is scheduled to play in a minor league game Thursday. It marks his first game action since injuring his left quad on Feb. 21.

Cubs vs. Cubs, white team takes down blue 7-3

Game-1

The Cubs season is officially underway. After a few weeks of workouts, batting practice and bullpen sessions, the team cranked it up to game speed in a blue vs. white intrasquad matchup Thursday afternoon at HoHoKam Stadium. The veteran-laden white team took down the top prospects in the system 7-3 in a five-inning affair.

After a rainy day yesterday in Arizona—it even snowed in some areas—the grounds crew spent most of the morning getting the HoHoKam field back in playing shape. But by game time, things had dried out.

The white team got off to a fast start off blue team starter Chris Rusin in the first. After a David DeJesus groundout, Starlin Castro doubled, Anthony Rizzo walked and Alfonso Soriano singled to load the bases. New Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro followed with a single, and third baseman Ian Stewart laced a ringing double to left center to put the white team up 4-0.

Shortstop Starlin Castro, who many expect to have a big year in 2013, got off to a good start with the bat, going 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored.

“Castro put two good swings and then just missed another really nice swing down the right field line,” said manager Dale Sveum. “That’s obviously one guy we really don’t have to be concerned with when the numbers are all done. That guy can just hit.”

Though the white team boasted most of the projected Opening Day starters, the blue team might have been the more interesting group, as it was loaded with many of the organization’s top prospects, including Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Junior Lake and Brett Jackson.

And Soler didn’t disappoint. The left fielder gave Cubs fans a glimpse of the future when he crushed a soaring home run to left off minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck in his first at-bat of the game. Soler also walked and made a good play coming in on a ball in left. Mind you, it was only an intrasquad, five-inning game and he was hitting off a minor league pitcher, but Soler certainly made a good impression.

“Pretty nice bat speed you saw,” Sveum said. “Those were some good at-bats—took a walk. … That guy following him up (Baez) had some pretty good bat speed going through the strike zone too—as well as Lake. There are some guys who are on that radar right now that could possibly be impact players some day.”

Top-ranked shortstop prospect Baez, who batted in the seven hole, had a little more of an up-and-down game. He struck out in the second and was robbed by Castro, who ranged to his left for a diving catch, in the fourth. On defense, he made a diving play of his own to rob David DeJesus of a single, but also got eaten up by Navarro’s single in the first.

“Baez was a little shaky today,” Sveum said. “Kind of some young stuff that’s still there that’s got to be cleaned up. [There's] a lot of stuff, even stuff that’s behind the scenes that everybody else doesn’t see, that we have to change—some instinctive stuff.”

New Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz homered in the bottom of the third inning and had an RBI sac fly for the white team. Brian Bogusevic, an Oak Lawn, Ill., native who spent the last three years with the Houston Astros, also homered for the blue team.

Following the game, Sveum announced that third baseman Ian Stewart, who was pulled from the game in the second inning, was day-to-day with a mild—emphasis on mild—left quad strain. Josh Vitters is also day-to-day with the same injury.

“It’s an epidemic,” Sveum joked.

Spring Training Preview: Behind the Dish

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.

To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.

Below is a look at the catchers. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.


After Geovany Soto was traded at the deadline last July, manager Dale Sveum gave equal playing time to catchers Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo. Though Clevenger won the backup job out of Spring Training, Castillo had earned the bulk of the starts by September, thanks to a strong presence with the bat (with both solid power and on-base skills) and what Sveum described as one of the best arms in baseball behind the plate.

Outside of throwing out would-be base stealers, Castillo does need to work on everything that comes with being an everyday backstop in the big leagues, including calling a good game and framing pitches. The pieces are there for Castillo to be an All-Star-caliber catcher, but it’s up to him and the coaching staff to put it all together and extract his full potential.

Dioner Navarro was signed to be Castillo’s backup and also act as veteran insurance in case Castillo fails to mature as hoped. Navarro’s signing all but assures Clevenger is left without a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.

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