The catch to Castro's Rookie of the Year push

The catch to Castro's Rookie of the Year push

Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010
8:11 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MIAMI This isnt the Heisman Trophy race, where one highlight-reel moment can change voters minds and win a player the award. But Starlin Castros run from shortstop, full-extension leap across the left-field grass and basket catch diving into foul territory felt like something the Cubs would want to put on a billboard.

Castro is still more than six months away from being able to legally enjoy the Presidente beer his teammates were sipping late Friday night inside the clubhouse at Sun Life Stadium.

The mood might have been different if he hadnt tracked down that ball to end the game. Instead of lining up for high fives after a 2-0 victory, Carlos Marmol would have had to deal with the two Florida Marlins he walked in what would have been a one-run game.

That saved the game not me, Marmol said with a laugh. Hes good. Hes going to be (better) as soon as he finds (more) confidence at shortstop.

At 20, Marmol was pitching in rookie-league ball, trying to figure things out as a converted catcher, with no realistic expectation that he would become a dominant closer. Thats what the Cubs are trying to remind everyone. This will be a process.

Castros defensive instincts were apparent in the ninth inning, but so were his flaws in the seventh and eighth, when he booted a ball into the outfield and bobbled another on a double-play turn.

Sometimes you get scared, you dont want the ball hit to you, Castro said through interpreterthird-base coach Ivan DeJesus. The only way I can figure it out is to concentrate on the next hitter and try to make a play after that.

Castro didnt get in front of a ball hit to his left on Saturday night and committed his 27th error. There will be spectacular catches as well as the lapses in concentration that recently led manager Mike Quade to bench him for two games.

We talk so much about making the plays from six-to-eight feet, left-to-right, making the grinding, routine plays every day, Quade said. If he combines that (with his athleticism), then hes going to be a phenomenal player.

Quade managed Miguel Tejada, a future American League MVP, on his way up through the Oakland system. The As shortstop had 26 errors in 104 games during his first extended stay in the majors, which came at the age of 24.

Derek Jeter, then 22, finished with 22 errors in 157 games during his Rookie of the Year season in 1996. Ten years later, Hanley Ramirez, who was 22 at the time, committed 26 errors in 154 games and won the award.

On Saturday night Castro played in his 112th game since being promoted from Double-A Tennessee on May 7. He entered Saturday hitting .309 three plate appearances shy of qualifying for the National League leader board and .344 since the All-Star break.

When the ballots are due, voters will have to weigh that against Castros defensive issues, which will be hard to ignore, as well as a strong crop of rookies.

Atlantas Jason Heyward (.2881871) and San Franciscos Buster Posey (.3221461) are performing in pennant races. Floridas Gaby Sanchez (.2791878) is another reliable run-producer. St. Louis has been thinking about shutting down left-hander Jaime Garcia (13-8, 2.70), but his numbers deserve consideration.

Castro, who for perspective began last season at Class-A Daytona, says he isnt thinking about the Rookie of the Year award. No matter the results, hell be forced to grow up quick. This patience wont last forever.

Hes 20 years old, but he acts like a man, Alfonso Soriano said. He knows what he wants to do.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

The Cubs gave Kyle Schwarber time to sort things out by sending him down to Triple-A Iowa, and Schwarber's first game back in the minors shows he may need some time.

Schwarber's first game with the Iowa Cubs was a forgettable one. He struck out in his first three plate appearances before singling in his last at-bat. He struck out looking in the first inning before striking out swinging his next two times up.

Schwarber batted third in the lineup and played left field. Iowa won 1-0 against the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

He last played for Iowa in 2015, but only spent 17 games there. He hit .333 with three homers and a 1.036 OPS in that short stint. Before getting sent down Schwarber was hitting .171 with the Cubs with 12 home runs, but also 75 strikeouts in 64 games.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

“Games like this is what we need right now – competition,” said Baez, who struck out in his first three at-bats and finished at 2-for-5. “Playing tight games like this will make us make adjustments better and be more in the game.”

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured their next run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save and then summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t work with a five-run cushion.

In a dramatic finish, Davis survived giving up three hits, a walk and a wild pitch, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with a curveball to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes.

“To play so well and not win that game would have really been awful,” Maddon said.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Ryan Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “If this was a spring training lineup, we might get a call.”