As if the Cubs didn't have enough problems with Geo Soto's sore shoulder in the early going, the only other catcher on the roster, Koyie Hill, is playing tonight with a toe so swollen and painful a part of his shoe has been cut away to alleviate the pressure.
Hill, who has been behind the plate every inning since Soto left Tuesday night's game with the shoulder problem, hurt the right pinkie toe when it got smashed by a pitch from Todd Coffey in the eighth inning Friday night.
``There's something to be concerned about here,'' manager Lou Piniella said. ``If you look at his foot, they cut the shoe out, so he's got a bare toe exposed. He's a tough kid, now. But at the same time, it's hard enough to catch when you're 100 percent physically. It's the most demanding position on the field. Let's hope he gets through it. That's why it's important tomorrow with Geo as far as the workout is concerned.''
Piniella referred to Soto's scheduled throwing work today to test the shoulder he says has improved dramatically since taking an anti-inflammatory injection Thursday and doing exercises the past two days.
``After tomorrow, we've got to come to a decision,'' Piniella said of whether Soto will have to be put on the disabled list. ``We can't continue to carry one catcher. ...
``We're hutting a little bit in that position [with Hill hobbled, too]. We're not trying to rush Geo back or anything else, but it's very, very difficult carrying one catcher for any extended period of time.''
Veteran backup Mark Johnson is waiting in the wings at AAA Iowa if the Cubs need to another catcher.