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After heavy thinking, Soto ready to start over for Cubs
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Geovany Soto


A trim Geovany Soto is introduced Friday night at the 25th annual Cubs Convention at the Chicago Hilton.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/16/2010 4:56 PM | Updated: 2/16/2010 5:55 PM

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MESA, Ariz. - To say Geovany Soto is raring to go would be an understatement.

The Cubs catcher was among a bunch of players breaking a sweat Tuesday at Fitch Park, one day before Cubs pitchers and catchers officially report for spring training.

"I'm anxious to go out there," Soto said after taking a batting-practice session. "I'm anxious to play. I felt like (last year) was a knockout in the second round, if I was a boxer. So I'm just ready to go out there. I'm well trained. My head's clear.

"I owe it to the fans and myself and my teammates, more importantly. I just want to be there for them."

Most Cubs fans are well aware Soto won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2008, batting .285 with 23 home runs and 86 RBI.

Last year was a different story.

Soto played sparingly for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic last spring, and his conditioning suffered. He also tested positive for marijuana at the WBC, an offense for which he apologized.

The rest of the season was a wreck, as he hit just 218 with 11 homers, 47 RBI and a low on-base percentage of .321. He also was limited to 102 games, in part because of a mild oblique strain.

Most statistical projections suggest Soto will bounce back this year. If there's one stat that portends well, according to the number-crunchers, it's Soto's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last year, which was .251, down from .337 from 2008. That suggests that Soto may have hit into some bad luck, with the batted balls that found holes in 2008 being caught in 2009.

No matter what the stats say, Soto says he knows he has to put himself in the best possible position to succeed in 2010.

Hence, the weight loss of about 40 pounds over this winter.

On Tuesday, he laughed off speculation the weight loss might have been caused by something sinister. There had been talk on Chicago's airwaves that the weight loss may have been caused by Soto getting off performance-enhancing drugs.

"I laugh at that," he said. "Throughout my whole life, I've had weight problems and stuff, and I've always been kind of immature in terms of diet, and never (would) stick to them. I had such a bad year that I was disappointed in myself, and I was willing to take that step and, 'OK, I'm really going to work hard, and I'm really going to just take it to the next level.'

"To me, it's just kind of ridiculous. I wasn't strong; I was just fat. My whole life. I've had problems my whole life. Not problems, but I just wasn't educated in a way.

"I stick to a program, and it's worked. I'm really happy I did it because I feel a lot better. Now, I'm just worried about going to play baseball instead of my weight and my cardio in the morning. I just have a clear head. Do my work afterwards just like everybody else. I have a lot of energy."