Bricks & Ivy: Castro Fever Hits the Cubs

Bricks & Ivy: Castro Fever Hits the Cubs

Friday, May 7, 2010
5:52 PM

By Luke Stuckmeyer
CSNChicago.com

Starlin Castro has been called one of the top 15 prospects in the Majors. The Cubs believe he's ready after hitting .376 in 26 games at Tennessee.

Remember Lou Piniella pointed out in spring training, "the great ones are ready at a young age."

Well, Castro is definitely young. We're about to find out about the other part.

He makes his Major League debut at the age of 20 years and 44 days. That makes him the Cubs youngest rookie since Oscar Gamble played his first game back in 1969. Gamble was only 19.

CSN Analyst Todd Hollandsworth believes that age is over-rated.

"Great players want to be challenged. Age does not matter at all. If a player is ready...a player is ready. Castro one of those rare players who's not defined just by his bat. He can change a game with his defense and speed," Hollandsworth said.

Over the last couple years, other young stars have thrived in Chicago. Gordon Beckham sparked the White Sox in 2009. Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews and Derrick Rose were stars before they could even by a beer. It just seems that success happens a lot less frequently in baseball.

"There is a large part of the game that is played mentally. You can't get away with just athleticism. You have to understand how to play the game at the Major League level. There's no minor leagues for the NBA or the NFL," said Hollandsworth.

Castro isn't the only player who will have to make an adjustment on the fly. Ryan Theriot has to switch to 2nd base. Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker will have to prepare for roles off the bench. When he played with the Marlins, Hollandworth was replaced in the starting lineup by a 20 year old rookie named Miguel Cabrera.

"Theriot, Fontenot and Baker will all succeed in their new roles if they embrace it. If they look at this as a demotion, they will struggle. If they look at this as a challenge and as a way to improve the team, it can work."

So, get your 13 jerseys for the next homestand. Hollandsworth is wearing his lucky Cubbie Cufflinks. Now, let's hope its a lucky 13 for the Cubs top prospect.

Luke Stuckmeyer covers the Cubs for Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @CSNStucky.

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

MESA, Ariz. — Think the stir-crazy Cubs have been in Arizona long enough? Near the end of a camp that has been relatively tame — at least compared to last year's parade of mimes, zoo animals and karaoke jams — manager Joe Maddon heard about Madonna's contest to find a new dance trainer and immediately thought of the man behind those gonzo stunts.

Because that's what a three-time Manager of the Year does. So the organization's content arm put together a one-minute clip nominating strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss, releasing it to 1.7 million followers on Friday through the @Cubs Twitter account.

"We're hoping that Madonna has an opportunity to check that out," Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "We're willing to send even more information — whatever she possibly needs — to see that our guy's the best."

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Set to synthesized 1980s-style music, the aerobics video is rated more PG than the actual "Bussy" experience. The Cubs didn't show Buss leading the team stretch in a Speedo and a Lucha Libre mask. A slow-motion part of the montage does feature Buss standing alone in the clubhouse, dousing himself in beer during a clinching celebration.

"We could have made it more edgy," Maddon said. "There were so many more ways to go with it. I was kind of pleased with it. I thought it presented his abilities very well. His physique was presented in a manner that she could be duly impressed with the fact that our strength and conditioning coach fashions that form."

What if Madonna steals Buss from the Cubs?

"We could share somehow," Maddon said. "She'll fire him after a couple weeks anyway."

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."