MILWAUKEE – It’s not all about Starlin Castro. Each error doesn’t have to be a referendum on his future with the Cubs. It would be a mistake to sell short the 23-year-old’s potential.
But Castro’s also not a kid anymore. This is his fourth year in The Show. Manager Dale Sveum is getting tired of making excuses.
The fans and the media zero in on Castro, but the Cubs have so many issues beyond their All-Star shortstop. Scott Feldman underlined that point again during Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that swept them out of Miller Park.
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The day after Sveum called out the “rookie ball” mistakes, Feldman extended his 6-foot-7-inch frame on a ball hit up the middle in the fifth inning. It popped out of his glove instead of becoming the third out. Five pitches later, Ryan Braun crushed a chest-high curveball that landed in the second deck in left field for a three-run homer.
“It’s the most routine play of all-time,” Feldman said. “It’s the most basic play you can make. You do it hundreds of times in spring training each year. It’s like a Little League play. It’s terrible.”
That just about sums up a 5-12 team that has committed 17 errors and allowed 14 unearned runs and still has to go through Cincinnati and Miami on this 10-game road trip.
Ultimately, Feldman (0-3, 4.50 ERA) is someone who was asked about the possibility of getting flipped at the trade deadline six minutes into his introductory conference call with the Chicago media after signing a one-year, $6 million deal last November. The Cubs made a real commitment to Castro, who has been playing “very average” defense. Just ask the manager becoming more pointed in his criticism.
“There’s been some mental mistakes – which you don’t get to see much – but we see them,” Sveum said. “We got to overcome all that. We got to start becoming that prolific defensive shortstop that’s there. But it’s got to start happening on a consistent basis.”
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Castro still has that great hand-eye coordination and knack for getting hits. He’s on a 13-game hitting streak, batting .404 (19-for-57) during that stretch, showing why he could be a monster once the rest of his offensive game develops.
Castro’s ability to block out the noise is one of his strengths, but he’s feeling the expectations. He made a key two-out error in Saturday’s 5-1 loss, fumbling the ball while taking it out of his glove and realizing he had to hurry to try to beat Milwaukee’s leadoff guy Norichika Aoki.
“It’s unbelievable,” Castro said. “I was trying to do too much, trying to be too perfect, because the situation’s not real good right now.”
Castro led the National League in errors in 2011 with 29. Last year he tied for the major-league lead with 27. Teammates and coaches praise his internal drive and work ethic, while hoping he can maximize his physical gifts and limit the mistakes.
“Those things can’t happen for this team,” Castro said. “I go every day to the field, working hard, (with all) my heart – just keep it up. It’s early right now. It can be good.”
The Cubs can’t go into a Four Corners stall waiting for Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora to develop. They need Castro to raise his game now.
“You’re trying to see more consistency at the major-league level,” Sveum said. “It’s very important to understand that this is an organization that’s trying to get to another level, but there’s a major-league team (that needs guys playing) up to their capabilities on an everyday basis. Not losing focus from at-bat to at-bat. Not losing focus on the field.
“It’s not just routine plays. Good major-league players make great plays. They have game-changing plays.”
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Remember there’s still almost 90 percent of the season left, a long runway for Castro to take off and show the Cubs have an elite shortstop through 2020. But this is testing their patience.
“There’s a lot of talent here, there’s no question about that,” Castro said. “The whole team is trying to do too much, because everybody feels bad about the way the team is playing right now.”