Clevenger Tries His Hand at Catching

Steve Clevenger was considered an overly versatile player when the Cubs drafted him as an infielder with their seventh-round selection last June. This spring, the 20-year-old is learning the ropes behind the plate.

If moving from position to position ever becomes a profession in and of itself, Steve Clevenger could one day be rolling in the proverbial dough.

A season ago, Clevenger spent his first professional season at Class Low A Boise in the Northwest League as the team's starting second baseman, where he committed 11 errors for a .966 fielding pecentage in 63 games.

In college, Clevenger was a Southland Conference All-Star at shortstop for Southeastern Louisiana University in 2005 before transferring to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College the following season.

He has also experimented with third base, particularly last fall in the early stages of the Cubs annual Instructional League.

And with less than a week remaining in last fall's Instructs camp, the Cubs approached Clevenger about another position: catcher.

As such, Clevenger reported to Cubs Minor League Spring Training earlier this month as a catcher, and though he has yet to suit up behind the plate in an official minor league game, the Baltimore native says he is excited about his new post.

"In summer leagues, I caught one or two games, but it was never anything serious," Clevenger said from Minor League Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday. "This is the first time I've gotten serious about it."

Clevenger has been behind the plate this spring.

While he's still new to catching, Clevenger should have plenty of time to learn the ropes between now and the start of his sophomore season. He said Thursday that he is scheduled to remain in Arizona throughout Extended Spring Training and then head to Boise later this year.

In preparation for the move behind the plate, Clevenger bulked up and gained 17 pounds this past off-season.

"As a catcher, you've definitely got to pick up more weight – good weight, not bad weight," said Clevenger, who weighed in at 185 pounds last summer in Boise. "You want to pick up more weight because you're going to be sweating a lot behind the plate all season."

The Cubs don't appear to be worried about whether or not Clevenger has the arm strength to catch. Following last year's draft, Clevenger was described by Chipola head coach Jeff Johnson as having an "average major league arm." Johnson at the time foresaw Clevenger moving to third base.

Hitting-wise, Clevenger is looking to do no less than duplicate his performance from a season ago at Boise when he batted .286 with eight doubles and 21 RBIs while drawing almost as many walks (26 in 220 at-bats) as strikeouts (28).

A left-handed hitter with a gap-to-gap approach at the plate, Clevenger finished with a .363 on-base percentage and had the third best batting average among Hawks regulars. His .286 mark was tied for ninth overall in the Northwest League.

Clevenger would like to hit .300 or better this season. How does he plan to do it?

"It's not so much working on your swing as it is pitch selection," he answered. "It's about making good contact all the time and not just having one good game here or there. It's about making solid, consistent contact throughout the year. The doubles, triples and home runs will come later."

Clevenger isn't the only Cubs infield prospect to take some reps at catcher this spring. Casey McGehee, who has spent much of his career in the minor leagues at third base, entered big league camp as a catcher following both Instructs and his off-season stint in the Mexican Winter League.

Northsiders Report Top Stories