Piniella eager to get Soto back

Piniella eager to get Soto back

CINCINNATI -- Catcher Geovany Soto went 1-for-2 in a rehab assignment on Monday night for Double-A Tennessee and is not expected to join the Cubs until Friday. Lou Piniella would like to speed things up.

Soto has been sidelined since July 7 with a mild left oblique strain, and the plan was to have him play three days for the Minor League team before joining the Cubs in Colorado for a four-game series. Piniella wants Soto activated in order to give Koyie Hill a well-deserved and overdue breather.

"Wednesday wouldn't be soon enough for me," Piniella said.

Hill has caught 207 innings since Soto was hurt. That's nearly three games more -- 27 innings -- than any other catcher in baseball. The Dodgers' Russell Martin is next, at 181 2/3 innings, followed by St. Louis' Yadier Molina (179 2/3 innings) and Milwaukee's Jason Kendall (174).

"I would think if [Soto] catches well tonight and doesn't feel any after-effects tomorrow and can DH tomorrow, whether he catches in Tennessee on Wednesday or catches here, I don't see any difference," Piniella said. "It gives us a chance to rest Hill on Thursday, and he'll have from Tuesday to Friday [off], and then maybe we can alternate them so both can catch."

Ask Hill, and he'll tell you he can catch every inning from now until the end of the season.

"I believe it," Piniella said. "He's done a nice job. Give him credit."

General manager Jim Hendry was with the Tennessee team to watch Soto's rehab. The 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, Soto was batting .230 in 69 games before he was injured.

On Monday, Soto hit an RBI single in the first to help Tennessee beat Carolina, 7-2. He was called out on strikes in the third and drew a walk to open the fifth before he was pulled. A crowd of 3,415 attended the game, which was the Smokies' eighth straight win. Andrew Cashner, the Cubs' 2008 No. 1 pick, gave up one run, unearned, on two hits over six innings. He struck out eight and walked one, and now has a 0.88 ERA.

Another player to watch in the Cubs' Minor League system is B.J. Ryan, who was pitching in relief for Iowa. The left-hander was released by Toronto and signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs. Infielder Aaron Miles, out since June 21 because of a hyperextended left elbow, has been swinging the bat better. Assistant general manager Randy Bush was with the Iowa team to scout the two.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.