10/1 Award winners
Sure, there are the big awards, like Cy Young and MVP. Dale Sveum was asked which players were the biggest surprises of the season. He picked Shawn Camp and Luis Valbuena. Camp was released by the Mariners in March, and signed a Minor League contract. The right-hander has appeared in a career-high 78 games for the Cubs. Valbuena was claimed off waivers on April 4, spent most of the season at Triple-A Iowa, and will finish with more starts at third base than Ian Stewart, who had been projected as the Cubs’ every day third baseman.
“Some of these key pickups right at the end of Spring Training have kept us afloat,” Sveum said of Valbuena and Camp. “Those kind of guys have helped us out tremendously or this would have been an even tougher season.”
But Sveum’s biggest surprise was veteran Alfonso Soriano, who has set a career-high in RBIs.
“Soriano has been the biggest every single day, all season long surprise, defensively and offensively,” Sveum said. “The person he is, the work ethic and everything has been awesome for a new manager to come in and see what he brings to the table.”
* Who is most improved? Sveum picked catcher Welington Castillo. He has taken over most of the catching duties since Geovany Soto was dealt to the Rangers at the Trade Deadline. In Spring Training, Castillo was like “a deer in the headlights,” Sveum said.
“What he’s done in the last six months has been the most impressive of anybody and he’s the most improved guy I’ve seen this season,” Sveum said.
Castillo, 25, has worked with pitching coach Chris Bosio and coach Mike Borzello on each day’s game plan, and is counted on to handle the pitch calling. Sveum said the transformation is a combination of more playing time, Soto’s departure, and the realization that Castillo has a chance to be an everyday big league catcher.
“It’s not that ‘yes’ man anymore,” Sveum said of the young catcher. “He’ll actually have input on situations. There are definitely guys who are starting to step up and going into Spring Training, it’ll be a very different atmosphere than going into it this past spring.”
Castillo took it as a challenge.
“I want to be a leader one day, and why not start now?” Castillo said. “They’re giving me an opportunity to be an everyday catcher and I think I have to take advantage of that and start doing that now. I feel really good and appreciate the confidence they have in me.”
— Carrie Muskat