After spending most of the 2007 season dominating the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, catcher Geovany Soto worked his way to the Chicago Cubs' roster in September and was impressive enough to start in two of the Cubs' three postseason losses to the Diamondbacks.
Now, as the 2008 season approaches, the starting job belongs to him -- an honor one of his former coaches says is well-deserved.
"The growth he's had this year has been tremendous," Mike Harkey, the pitching coach at Triple-A Iowa, told MLB.com. "What's hard for young catchers is to put both hitting and catching together at the same time. I think the fact that offensively, he's as solid as anybody can be at Triple-A, he still made great strides in calling the game. Either he hits or he catches, and he did both."
While with Iowa, Soto won the Pacific Coast League MVP in a season during which he played in 110 games and hit .353 with 31 doubles, 26 home runs and 109 RBIs.
In his time off, Harkey noted, Soto would concentrate on how to handle his pitching staff.
"He takes the fact that a pitcher isn't doing well very personally -- he thinks it's his fault," said Harkey. "One of the things I've tried to get across to him is try not to get creative with guys who don't have the kind of stuff to be creative. Evaluate them first and foremost with fastball command. If they have fastball command, you can be creative."
Harkey, now on the Yankees' coaching staff, believes that Soto and the Cubs are a match made for one another.
"This is actually a good team for him to come up on because there's not a lot of pressure for him to call games," he said. "He's got a lot of veteran pitchers here who have enough confidence in calling their own game."
Soto says he's ready for the challenge.
"I've been in this organization for seven years, and I think I've progressed every year, I've been doing better every year," he said. "I think I'm ready to play up here in the big leagues, and I hope they give me a chance."
Paulino ready to show old form for Pirates: Catcher Ronny Paulino, who is heading into his third season with the Pirates, wants to return to the form he had in his rookie season in 2006.
"This season means a lot to me," Paulino told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's going to be a new start, a new chance. I'm going to work hard and prove that what I did in 2006 was the way I can play."
That year, Paulino hit .310 and was essentially given the job as the Pirates' starting catcher. In 2008, he's out to prove he can get back to where he was.
"People sometimes can see something like that better than myself," said Paulino. "I could be out there and feeling like I'm trying, but it maybe didn't look like it. But other people can see that I could do more. But, you know, you can make a lot of excuses. You have to work hard, and that's what I'm going to do."
Sanchez signs one-year deal with Mets: The New York Mets added some depth to their bullpen by signing Duaner Sanchez to a one-year contract. The reliever missed all of the 2007 season recovering from a broken bone in his shoulder.
General manager Omar Minaya was able to get the deal done with Sanchez despite being half a world away in Israel.
"My phone works here," Minaya told the New York Daily News. "God bless technology. I've checked in with some general managers and I've talked to my scouts and my assistant, John Ricco. Even though I'm here, I'll be on the phone, too, trying to improve our team."
Difelice makes a return to Tampa Bay: Catcher Mike Difelice was an original member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Now the veteran will get a chance to wear a Tampa Bay uniform once again as he has agreed to a Minor League contract with the Rays with an invitation to Spring Training.
Difelice said the chance to compete for a job and to do so with the Rays led him to sign with the team.
"I know where they're trying to get to," Difelice told the St. Petersburg Times. "I wanted to be part of it and I still want to be."
Difelice, who has played mostly in Triple-A the last four seasons, would give the Rays a veteran behind the plate should he win a spot on the roster. Tampa Bay currently has young catchers Dioner Navarro, Shawn Riggans and John Jaso on the roster.
Capps hopes to be a Steeltown staple: Matt Capps, who in 20 chances last season saved 18 games after being given the Pirates' closer role on June 1, enjoys playing for Pittsburgh.
"There is nothing that would make me happier than to be a Pittsburgh Pirate for a long time," Capps told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I love the city, love the way the fans have treated me and love my teammates."
In 76 appearances last year, Capps posted an ERA of just 2.28 and held right-handed batters to a .181 batting average. His 76 appearances led all Pirates pitchers.
Patterson, Orioles have mutual interest: Free-agent outfielder Corey Patterson and the Baltimore Orioles may still have a mutual interest in one another, after all. Just a month ago it looked like Patterson would definitely be moving on, but that sentiment may be changing.
"I have had discussions with his representative, Scott Boras, and they are familiar with our interest," Orioles president Andy MacPhail told the Baltimore Sun. "We have agreed we will touch base a little later."
After hitting .269 with eight home runs and 37 stolen bases last year, Patterson has been patiently waiting for the right offer to come from the Orioles -- or from any team for that matter.
"From what I have been hearing a few months ago, there were a handful of teams out there [with interest]," said Patterson. "But you're stuck in the middle, and if there's a trade, if one player goes here or there, it can have a trickle-down effect. So you just have to wait."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, meanwhile, would not mind seeing Patterson return at all.
"I think Corey is a guy that definitely deserves consideration," said Trembley. "I think he fits into what we are trying to establish with pitching and defense. He has speed at the top of the lineup, he's a good base runner and he covers a lot of ground in the outfield. A guy that has those baseball skills is attractive. I like that kind of player for what we are trying to do."
But for Patterson, it remains a waiting game.
"I think the Orioles are still waiting to make some trades, but they are talking to Scott and we'll go from there," he said. "I've said from Day One, since the 2007 season started and I was going to be a free agent, that I want to play. Period. Any team that shows interest in me, I would definitely show interest back to them."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.