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.