Soto Ready if Needed

Despite certain speculation and virtual armchair (general) managing, Geovany Soto admits he never fully planned to get a call up to Chicago – even with Cubs catcher Michael Barrett facing a 10-game suspension for punching White Sox showoff A.J. Pierzynski.

Barrett began serving the suspension on Monday when it was upheld prior to the Cubs' opening of a three-game interleague series with Cleveland at Jacobs Field. The Cubs won the game, 12-8. It was the first time the Cubs had played the Tribe since 1999.

Rather than promote Soto or someone else from the minor leagues temporarily, the Cubs decided to fill the hole left by Barrett's suspension with backup Henry Blanco, who hit two home runs in the team's three-game weekend sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field, which dropped them 16 games below .500.

Phil Nevin caught one inning behind the plate in Sunday's 12-3 loss and will serve as emergency catcher.

While the 23-year-old Soto appeared to be the most idealistic choice to aid Blanco, he admits a call up was something that he never banked on.

"It's definitely something you think about," said Soto, who was batting .263 in 56 games for Triple-A Iowa entering the week. "At the same time, you still have a place on your team here and you have to perform."

Soto has recently met with struggles at the plate, where his average has fallen from .288 (June 2) to .259 following Iowa's 3-0 loss to Albuquerque on Monday.

Defensively, opposing runners have swiped 60 bags against Soto this season – the most allowed by any catcher in the Pacific Coast League. He has thrown out 26 percent of would-be base stealers.

"I'm not really surprised not to have been up there sooner," Soto said. "These guys know what they're doing. They've been developing players for a long time. I feel they've prepared me well for whenever I do go up there."

While Soto insists the talk of a possible promotion hasn't affected his recent play, Iowa hitting coach Von Joshua disagrees.

"It's on his mind, certainly," Joshua said. "I'm sure there's a lot of pressure on him. That's the toughest thing at this level a lot of times – keeping these guys focused because they're so close to Chicago. They hear a lot of things on the radio or in the papers. It's tough enough to get these kids to focus, so when things like this are out in the mix, it can always have an effect."

Working with Barrett in Spring Training and late last year during a September call-up to Chicago has prepared Soto for the moment when the Cubs finally are ready for him.

"He's a great guy, Barrett is," Soto said. "He shares ideas on every aspect: hitting, receiving the ball, lowering his stance at the plate, or whatever else. Whatever he has, he shares it with you. He helps you out."

Added Soto, "It would be a great experience for me to get called up. Stuff happens and although you never count on things like suspensions or injuries, I feel like I'm ready."

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