Geo Soto, Gio Soto share bond beyond name

Geo Soto, Gio Soto share bond beyond name

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- What's in a name?

Sometimes confusion for Chicago White Sox reliever Giovanni Soto and catcher Geovany Soto. But the teammates have more in common than their nearly identical names, and a friendship has blossomed between the new batterymates.

As Cactus League games approach, the two are together for the first time in the same clubhouse. Both are battling for spots on Chicago's 25-man roster.

• Not a typo: Soto throws to Soto

But imagine the confusion when manager Rick Renteria yells out their name.

"It's kind of surreal, just having the same last name and calling him Gio and then he's calling me Geo," Geovany said. "It's kind of weird. There's a lot of Gio going on with [pitcher Lucas] Giolito, Giovanni and me. It can get pretty hectic."

Giovanni, a left-handed reliever, first met Geovany when he was on a September callup with the Indians in 2015. Before a game against the White Sox, Giovanni heard a voice calling his name from across the hall.

"Gio! Gio how's it going?"

It was Geovany.

The two spoke, then went about their business. Giovanni completed his only extended stint in the Majors that year, allowing just three hits while throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings in six relief appearances.

Geovany played in 78 games, his most since 2012, hitting .219 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs.

After the season, they would cross paths again.

"[Geovany] went to winter ball in Puerto Rico and played with Carolina, which is the team that I played with," Giovanni said in Spanish. "From there, we just got to know each other better. Now we call each other, sometimes we go out to dinner, stuff like that."

Giovanni wants a second crack at the big leagues. He said he was disappointed in his 2016 effort, in which he posted a 5.14 ERA in 33 games for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate. He bounced around in this offseason, getting claimed by Oakland before finding himself with the White Sox after another waiver claim.

"I didn't have a good season last year with the Cubs, but that's the type of stuff you have to clear from your mind," Giovanni said. "I need to throw more strikes and seek the opportunity to be in the big leagues. To do that, I need to throw strikes and be good with my mechanics."

Geovany needs to stay healthy.

While 2015 showed he is capable of catching in a high number of games, he took a step back in '16. A pair of knee injuries with the Angels limited him to just 26 games.

"Everyone that I've spoken to that has had contact with [Geovany] in the past was very happy with him," Renteria said. "I'm glad he's here. His ability to communicate with pitchers and his time [previously with the White Sox] certainly bodes well for us."

In an effort to quell the Gio/Geo confusion, Giovanni told his teammates to start calling him Luis, his second name, or by his number, 50. It's yet to catch on, meaning there is still some level of multiple head-turning.

It could be just as confusing for fans listening to a White Sox spring broadcast, particularly if the likely scenario unfolds of Geovany catching for Giovanni during a Cactus League game.

The Sotos were paired for live batting practice during Monday's workouts, and Giovanni is hoping their battery will be paired in actual games.

"I haven't pitched to him yet. It would be cool if I did, since I know him really well and we get along well. I'd really like to pitch to him in a game, not just a practice," Giovanni said. "There's a big chance that he catches me a lot [this spring]. Hopefully that'll lead to him catching me in the Majors, which is what I want most."

Meanwhile, the two players will try to sort through the name thing.

"Physicals, doctors, people from drug test -- we've been confused in all three of those," Geovany said. "I'm expecting that to happen.

"Hopefully, I can get a big check in his name and cash it."

Fabian Ardaya is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.