It wasn’t all that surprising to see McGehee catching warm-up tosses from a certain Iowa pitcher that day. He appeared in 28 games behind the plate for Class-A Daytona in his first full season in the Cubs’ farm system in 2004.
Still, later that night we asked the third base starter if this was a prelude to a future return to catching or merely a way of sparing Jose Reyes and company from some additional pre-game duties on that particular day.
McGehee insisted his catching days were in the past.
Should have known better. Nothing is ever concrete in the farm system, least of all when it comes to players getting some looks at different positions.
So after taking more in-depth reps behind the plate in the Cubs’ annual Instructional League camp in Mesa, Ariz., last fall, McGehee will indeed suit up at catcher once more – temporarily, at least. He will report to spring camp in less than two weeks on Feb. 14 with pitchers and catchers.
“It’s something I was thinking about,” McGehee said. “I’m going to do a little bit of catching in Spring Training.”
How much catching remains to be seen and it should be noted that McGehee also plans to take in some work at several infield positions besides third.
A little versatility never hurt anyone.
“I’m going to try to get my work in at third, second and first just to give them some options,” McGehee said. “Hopefully I can add some value so that one of these days, somebody will take note of some of the things I do and see that I can help them at the big league level. Obviously, that’s the goal.”
Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita first alerted us to McGehee’s return to catching in Instructs last October. But the Fresno State alum and Cubs 10th-round pick from the 2003 draft would go on to play most all of his 67 contests in the recent Mexican Winter League at the hot corner.
McGehee batted .300 in Mexico for Tomateros de Culiacan and held the league’s longest consecutive on-base streak at 34 games.
He says his return to catching is indefinite.
“I’ve talked to Oneri Fleita, (Cubs Minor League Field Coordinator) Dave Bialas and those guys about it and I don’t think we’re really sure what the [long-term] plans are at this point,” McGehee said. “But I am going to go back there to work until they tell me differently. At this point, I don’t know if I’m moving back there full-time or not. We’ll see what happens.”
McGehee committed 10 errors at third base a season ago and had a .972 fielding percentage. In his only season to date at catcher in 2004, he committed three errors and was charged with six passed balls. He threw out seven runners in 37 attempts.