Cubs expect bigger and better season from Castro

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Cubs expect bigger and better season from Castro

Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted: 9:07 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

PEORIA, Ariz. The marketing department at 1060 W. Addison St. wants to promote Starlin Castro as the next Derek Jeter.

They paired the two homegrown shortstops on billboards modeled after heavyweight prize fights: Cubs vs. Yankees, June 17-19 at Wrigley Field.

Jeter, a Madison Avenue icon, has his own brand. Hes built a gigantic new mansion in Tampa, Fla., that The New York Times said was about as big as a typical Best Buy store, his own St. Jetersburg.

Castro, who turns 21 next week, had his parents fly in from the Dominican Republic to live with him during spring training.

Cubs baseball staffers use the Jeter analogy in a much different context. They tell you to look up how many errors Jeter committed in the minors. That tension between patience and expectations can be felt through the entire organization.

Whats overlooked sometimes is the sense that teammates genuinely like the kid. Heres what you heard Saturday in the HoHoKam Park clubhouse after Castro hit his second home run in Las Vegas:

Do it, Starlin!

Thats whats Im talking about, Cassie!

They were hooting and hollering while watching the split-squad game on TV. By the end of the weekend, Castro was hitting .485 with a .500 on-base percentage and an .848 slugging percentage, numbers that put him among the Cactus League leaders.

Hes not missing (and) hes using the whole field, manager Mike Quade said. Youd like to think hes maturing. (Hes) a talented young hitter thats getting better.

Castro also left Las Vegas with a bruised right knee that isnt considered serious. At this point, the Cubs are more concerned with his mental adjustments.

Almost two weeks ago, Quade met with Castro about demanding a more intense approach in his practice sessions. That meant doing infield work at game speed and running the bases with a purpose. It just got buried because it happened on the same day Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez nearly fought in the dugout.

Is it inexperience? Is it concentration or focus? Quade told reporters that day. Im not interested in panicking, but (lets) be sure you understand (whats important).

These mistakes happen to everyone. Castros are just magnified because of the team he plays for and the market he works in now.

Jeter was about a month away from his 21st birthday when he made his big-league debut, and he finished his first full season in the majors at age 22. He was allowed to commit 133 errors in the minors.

Long before he became famous for dating Hollywood starlets, Jeter made 56 errors in 126 games for the 1993 Class-A Greensboro Hornets.

At age 20, Castro was involved in so much, so soon that it was hard to tell where his ceiling might be. The Cubs downplayed his offensive potential and assured everyone that he would be a huge defensive upgrade over Ryan Theriot.

Castros 27 errors last season second-most among all major-league players should be the quickest fix to his game. He hit only nine home runs in 995 career minor-league at-bats, but flashed signs of power in 125 games with the Cubs: 31 doubles; five triples; and three homers.

Hes a young kid with a lot of talent, said Augie Ojeda, the 36-year-old infielder who was brought into camp to help mentor Castro. (Hes) so gifted and the futures so bright for him. Hes got to keep working at it and the skys the limit.

Castros already responded to being benched last September. He made enough adjustments at the plate to finish last season hitting .300. His month-to-month splits reveal someone trying to figure things out: .310; .227; .361; .336; .215.

On an aging roster filled with veterans over 30, and in a lineup that at times struggled to score runs last season, Castro is one player who can get better in a hurry. Castros teammates dont believe in the hype to sell tickets. They know he will help them win games.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Shakeup: Cubs planning to demote Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa and put Jason Heyward on DL

Shakeup: Cubs planning to demote Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa and put Jason Heyward on DL

MIAMI - The Cubs are preparing for a major shakeup that would send struggling World Series hero Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa and put Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward on the disabled list.

Stuck in a 36-35 pattern but still only 1.5 games out of first place, the Cubs are expected to add outfielder Mark Zagunis and reliever Dylan Floro from Iowa before Thursday night's game at Marlins Park.

Schwarber will try to regain his confidence on a Triple-A level he almost skipped while skyrocketing through the farm system as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft. While still showing flashes of the power (12 homers) that made him a Wrigleyville favorite, his .171 batting average ranked last among qualified big-league hitters this season.

Unable to grip a bat, Heyward has been waiting for a nasty cut on his left hand to heal after trying to make a diving catch on Sunday in PNC Park's foul territory.

For a banged-up Cubs team, Heyward would join a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) and a Cy Young Award finalist (Kyle Hendricks) on the disabled list.

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Thursday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Thursday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Thursday night, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage from South Florida begins with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jake Arrieta (6-5, 4.64 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (0-2, 4.58 ERA)

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