Cubs building blocks give hope in opener

Cubs building blocks give hope in opener
April 2, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Opening Day is supposed to be a fresh start, and after losing 101 games in 2012, the Cubs are happy to be moving forward. The Monday afternoon 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates was only the first win, but it featured solid work from several of their young players.

Pitcher Jeff Samardzija used his first opening day start to open some eyes around baseball. His eight shutout innings of two-hit ball were the best Opening Day pitching performance by a Cub in 39 years. 

"I really thought it was one of the best pitched games I've thrown. I didn't have the best stuff that I've had, but I worked both sides of the plate, up and down and really attacked their hitters," Samardzija said.

He's emerged as a building block and patiently waits for a long-term contract. That might be a gamble for both sides, but his stock is climbing steadily.

[RELATED: Samardzija’s fast start ends with closer questions for Cubs]

Catcher Welington Castillo would also like to be part of the Cubs' foundation. On Opening Day he was in sync with Samardzija behind the plate, while delivering a pair of doubles at the plate. His first opener was something he won’t forget.

"I was very excited [for] my first inning because I know I have been working a long time for this and now it happens," said Castillo.

Meanwhile, Starlin Castro flashed some leather. The 23-year-old shortstop committed 83 errors in three seasons, but shows flashes of promise in the field. Monday, Castro had two spectacular plays to go along with two hits at the plate.

"If Cassie plays like that every day he's gonna be an MVP player for us,” said Samardzija.

The Cubs contract with Castro is looking like smart business. Elvis Andrus is reportedly getting an eight year, $120 million contract from the Texas Rangers. Castro -- who is four years younger -- is locked in for seven years at $60 million. That's a Cubbie blue light special. 

Finally, there was at least one more building block who shined on Opening Day. First basemen Anthony Rizzo teamed up with Castro on two defensive gems. Rizzo's first inning homer may still be floating down the Allegheny River.

There will still be plenty of rough days ahead, but it's always nice to get a fresh start. The Cubs are hopful this Opening Day performance will be a sign of good things ahead, in the not too distant future.