Cubs make commitment to Starlin Castro

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Cubs make commitment to Starlin Castro

MESA, Ariz. This will be a pivotal year for Starlin Castro, who just turned 22 and has already played in an All-Star Game and led the National League in hits. Hes seen his image up on billboards and his name in the news for the wrong reasons.

The Cubs think their most dynamic player will show more power, more focus and more maturity in 2012. Manager Dale Sveum knows the numbers werent good when Castro hit third last season .225 in 178 at-bats but remains committed to the idea.

Hes still the best hitter on the team, and sometimes for the future of the team you have to do it, Sveum said before Saturdays 3-3 tie with the Los Angeles Angels. When do you do it to a good young hitter? Does anybody really know that answer? So its just something I committed to (and) hes been committed to it.

Its just time, and I think for the future of the franchise its best to get him in there now.

If you ask Castro about his goals for this season, he immediately talks about playing better defense. Sveum, an old shortstop, made that a point of emphasis from Day 1, showing Castro how to gain ground and attack the ball.

Ive seen quite a bit of improvement the work ethic is better, Sveum said. Hes learned that he has to slow his feet down after he catches the ball to make accurate throws. Hes got a great arm. You dont need to speed that arm up (because his feet are) too fast. That gets a lot of young guys in trouble.

But hes been very, very receptive of everything Ive asked him to do. Now, hes still a guy have to not stay on as far as jumping his butt every day but you give him goals each day when hes working.

Sveum has set the scale 1 to 10 for the drills and asks Castro grade himself out. Sveum has heard Castro come in and say: Hey, I was a 10 today.

I was like, Nah, you dont think I was watching? I saw that one little throwaway 10 is perfect, Sveum recalled. Sveum also said that Castro is usually honest, and has given himself an 8, which his manager thinks is unacceptable at the major-league level.

This will be the interesting back-and-forth between an old-school manager and a potential star with a lot on his shoulders.

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson

The Cubs are preparing to roll the dice with Brett Anderson, hoping the talented, frequently injured pitcher can stay healthy and provide insurance for their rotation.

Anderson posted a telling message on his Twitter account on Monday night, hinting at what would be another offseason check mark for the defending World Series champs.

The physical for the agreement — first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network — won't just be a formality as Anderson underwent back surgery last March and appeared in only four games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

But Anderson fits on paper as a left-hander who will turn only 29 on Feb. 1 and won't have to carry front-of-the-rotation responsibilities or feel Opening Day urgency on a team with five projected starters.

The Cubs had been willing to gamble around $6 million on Tyson Ross, who recently signed a similarly structured one-year deal with the Texas Rangers as he recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The calculus would essentially be the same with Anderson. The Cubs have to factor in last year's grueling playoff run into early November, this season's sky-high expectations, the organization's lack of high-end, upper-level pitching prospects and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 rotation.

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Anderson finished sixth in the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year voting with the Oakland A's, but he's reached the 30-start mark only one other time and never accounted for 200 innings in a single season.

Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2011 season, and the injuries piled up from there, dealing with a strained right oblique, a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left index finger.

Anderson had such a fragile reputation that he accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Dodgers after a strong platform year in 2015 (10-9, 3.69 ERA). The Dodgers only got 11 1/3 innings out of Anderson, who didn't pitch during a playoff run that ended at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs stayed exceptionally healthy while winning 200 games across the last two seasons and need to be prepared in case John Lackey sharply declines at the age of 38 or Mike Montgomery experiences growing pains while transitioning from the bullpen.

Whether or not Anderson is ultimately the answer, the Cubs will be looking to place a sixth starter into their plans.

"I don't know if a six-man rotation on a permanent basis is the wave of the future," team president Theo Epstein said earlier this winter. "But we certainly endorse it on a temporary basis as a nice way to pace guys for the whole season.

"We can get them some rest, whether you do it in April to preserve depth and ease guys into the season, especially after a deep October and November run. Or after the All-Star break in the summer to kind of get through the dog days and give guys a little bit of a breather as you ramp up for the stretch run.

"I think it would be tough to pull off all season long. But it's something that (could certainly work) in the right spot."

Report: Cubs have a deal with free-agent starting pitcher Brett Anderson

Report: Cubs have a deal with free-agent starting pitcher Brett Anderson

The Cubs are reportedly adding another pitcher to their 2017 mix.

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have agreed to a deal with veteran left-hander Brett Anderson.

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Anderson started his career with a bang back in 2009, starting 30 games and striking out 150 batters for the Oakland A's and finishing in the top 10 in American League Rookie of the Year voting. But while he pitched well in some of the years that followed, staying healthy has been a consistent challenge.

After making those 30 starts in 2009, he started 19 games in 2010, then 13 in 2011, then a total of just 19 over the next three seasons, the third coming with the Colorado Rockies.

He burst back onto the scene with 31 starts (and a 3.69 ERA) with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. But last season with the Dodgers, he appeared in only four games, making just three starts.

All in all, Anderson has a 3.86 career ERA in 685 2/3 innings over 127 appearances, 115 of which have been starts.

While the Cubs' rotation is packed at the top with Cy Young contenders Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks — and John Lackey has the No. 4 spot nailed down — the fifth spot is a bit more of an uncertainty. Mike Montgomery figures to be the favorite, but perhaps Anderson could get himself into the mix.

Regardless, he's en route to the Windy City.