McGehee Making the Most of Opportunity

Casey McGehee can do the math. The two positions he is most familiar with on the field (third base and catcher) are ones his parent club has occupied at the big league level.

"I guess I know there's a pretty good chance that I'll be back in (Class AAA) Iowa because of what the organization has," says McGehee, 25 years old, without any real prospect hype, and at a position(s) with no immediate vacancies in sight.

Conceding that he's likely to begin the year in the minor leagues, McGehee – a 10th-round Cubs draft pick out of Fresno State in 2003 – has some added motivation to leave a good impression on his parent club for as long as he has the chance.

What else is he supposed to do besides make the most of his opportunity?

"The impressions that you leave here are probably going to stick with (the front office) more than maybe hearing what somebody else says about you," McGehee said.

McGehee has made a favorable impression so far.

Through nine Cactus League games, he is 9-for-14 with three doubles and five RBI.

He has been known throughout his career as a solid hitter for average, having displayed good plate discipline from year to year. He doesn't have much home run pop, but he's a gap to gap hitter that more often than not puts the ball in play.

"His bat is going to play in the big leagues as it is," said former big league infielder Pat Listach, McGehee's manager at Class AA Tennessee a season ago. "He's got a live bat. He's done a good job and he's still getting better."

This spring, McGehee has seen the bulk of his playing time at third base (his most natural position) late in games after Aramis Ramirez has taken a seat on the bench.

"I've been getting some balls to fall in and I feel pretty good," said McGehee, whose .643 batting average leads the Cubs. "It's good to get off to a good start."

At the same time, McGehee recognizes that a good start is only that: a start.

"It is what it is," he said. "Pitchers are still getting ready. It's good to be hitting the ball, but it is still Spring Training and none of this really counts yet for anything.

"There's a reason why Spring Training stats don't go on baseball cards."

What McGehee hopes is that his hot start in Arizona will carry over into the minor league season. A year ago at Iowa, he got off to an uncharacteristically slow start and was demoted to Tennessee a month into the season.

The Cubs said they were sending McGehee back to Double A to groom him at catcher, but he was batting only .173 at the time the move was announced.

McGehee remained in good spirits after the demotion (the first of his career), and said he enjoyed the opportunity to get a fresh start with the Tennessee club.

"Maybe it was because I knew I was going down to catch, but I was actually looking forward to Double-A," he said. "We had a good team there and it was kind of fun to for once be one of those older guys on the team and help some of those guys who were just getting their first taste of Double-A. It was kind of a neat."

All the same, this spring has allowed McGehee to forget about an otherwise up-and-down 2007 season in which he batted just .262 overall.

Not only does McGehee feel his performance thus far in camp helps himself, he feels it also casts a positive light on the rest of the farm system.

Just as he felt inspired watching players like Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto and Felix Pie – whom he played with in the minors – in their first big league action, McGehee hopes young position prospects watching him this spring are likewise encouraged.

"They all went up and I remember it helped guys like me, because we saw that they could go up and be successful," McGehee recalled. "You start to realize it's a real possibility. You start to see that carrot dangling in front of you a little bit more than in the past when you weren't seeing guys you played with getting called up.

"Now, it's a thing where you're obviously doing it for yourself and putting your best foot forward, but you're also doing it for guys that aren't in your position," McGehee added. "And maybe it makes them (front office) more confident in calling guys up."

McGehee would like to be called up; he's just not sure when or even if it will happen. All he knows is that opportunities like the one he's receiving this spring don't come along every day, and when they do, he has to make the most of them.

"If something crazy happens ... obviously, that would be great," he said. "At the same time, I'm trying to put my best foot forward and represent myself well."

Even if it doesn't show up on a baseball card.


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