Catcher Soto takes advantage of fresh start with Texas Rangers

Sometimes, a change of scenery is all it takes.

Geovany Soto believes that has helped him find new life with the Texas Rangers in what had become a stagnant big league career with the Chicago Cubs.

"It's a clean slate with a new team," Soto said. "I feel comfortable right now. I'm settling in. It's a fresh start."

Soto had been a rising star in the Cubs' organization, being named to the National League All-Star team and the league's Rookie of the Year in 2008. He then had a sophomore slump in 2009 but rebounded with a solid 2010 campaign.

Soto, however, struggled again last season and was batting .199 in 52 games with the Cubs this season. The Rangers, with two catchers eligible for free agency after the season, proved to be the perfect fit to roll the dice on Soto.

The Rangers acquired Soto at the trade deadline for Double A pitcher Jake Brigham and cash considerations, and the move has paid off offensively and defensively so far.

"Our scouts felt like the physical ability was there, and heard he cared about handling a staff," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We thought a change of scenery might help him."

Soto got off to a slow start with Texas, batting .152 in his first nine games, but quickly found himself in an everyday role once Mike Napoli landed on the disabled list Aug.11.

Over his last 12 games, including 10 starts, Soto is batting .297 with two doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. The Rangers' pitching staff has posted a 3.75 ERA with him behind the plate.

"We know he has the pedigree to swing the bat, and maybe the last couple of years it hasn't happened," manager Ron Washington said. "Sometimes you can be somewhere for a long period of time and get stale. Hopefully, we got rid of the stale bread and there's a fresh loaf.

"He plays with a lot of energy. He's one heck of a receiver, and he really loves his job. He loves his pitching staff, and that's what you look for."

Washington compared Soto to Bengie Molina, who helped the Rangers make their first World Series run in 2010 after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants.

Unlike Molina, though, Soto could provide some future security for the Rangers at a position at which they didn't have much depth. Soto is under club control for 2013 as an arbitration-eligible player.

Texas has catching prospects at the lower levels of the farm system, but it didn't have anyone ready to step in if its two Opening Day catchers, Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba, would have left as free agents.

Napoli, who is trying to come back from a strained left quad, reiterated that he isn't worried about his contract situation or how Soto's performance could affect him.

"I want him to play good," Napoli said. "We're both in it to try to win a World Series. We'll worry about the contract when the time comes and the situation is in front of us, but that's the last thing on my mind right now."

Washington wasn't ready to speculate, either, on how he would handle the catching duties once Napoli returns. But Washington said Soto deserves his fair share of time in the lineup.

"He can play," Washington said. "This guy has done a lot of good things in the big leagues. I'm just glad he's rejuvenated with us."

Soto and his former Cubs teammate, starter Ryan Dempster, have overcome sluggish starts with the Rangers to show what they can bring to the team. Similar to Soto, Dempster has pitched better in his last two starts after giving up eight runs in two of his first three starts. They have also had no issues acclimating to a new clubhouse.

That's not too surprising, as Michael Young said: "It's the best clubhouse I've been around without a doubt.

"They've been good pickups for us, and we expect them to be big contributors down the stretch."

Soto could be a big contributor next season, too.

Geovany Soto

Age: 29 Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Ht: 6-foot-1 Wt: 220 pounds

How acquired: Traded by the Cubs on July 31 with cash to the Rangers for RHP Jake Brigham (minors) and player to be named or cash.

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* Soto made his big league debut in 2005, but wasn't an everyday player until 2008.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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