Cubs notes: Castro's back, enough said?

Cubs notes: Castro's back, enough said?

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010
9:45 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Starlin Castro found his name back in Wednesdays lineup, roughly 72 hours after he forgot how many outs there were, the kind of lapse in concentration that has bothered his new manager.

By benching Castro for two games even as that .317 average ranked third in the National League and lent credibility to a Rookie of the Year campaign Mike Quade felt he proved a point and used it as a teaching moment for his 20-year-old shortstop.

Enough said, Quade said. Hes doing what he needs to do.

It wont be a straight line of development for Castro, who committed his 23rd error during the first inning of Wednesdays 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros. Castro let a groundball pop out of his glove and didnt have time to flip to second for the third out. Carlos Lee whos listed at 265 pounds beat the throw to first.

Castros diving catch later robbed Lee of a base hit with two runners on in the fifth, and the shortstop made a nice spin play behind second base an inning later. In between he sprinted into Astros first baseman Brett Wallace and was knocked to the ground trying to hustle for an infield single.

The Cubs decided months ago to let Castro learn on the job and live with his mistakes, hoping for a bigger payoff in the future.

He understands where Im coming from, Quade said. Weve talked at length about his youth. (Its) just a step in the process of growing. Thats the way I look at it. And Im as anxious as anybody to see him play well.

It took Jeff Samardzija 136 days to get back to the big leagues. Between his demotion on April 24 and this weeks round of September call-ups, the Cubs made 19 additions to their pitching staff, almost constant roster shuffling that until Tuesday did not involve their 10 million prospect.

When Samardzija was sent down to Triple-A, the organization took its share of the blame, saying it was unfair to a player whos been pulled between the rotation and the bullpen (though Sean Marshall has made himself an extremely valuable asset by showing that kind of versatility).

Samardzijas development was already slowed by his All-American football career at the University of Notre Dame, but he doesnt care how hes used this month.

Here we go again, Samardzija said. Lets jump on the wheel and spin around.

The Cubs havent finalized their pitching plans for the final 21 games of the season. Casey Coleman will have at least one more audition and start Sunday in Milwaukee. Tom Gorzelanny threw Wednesday, testing his bruised left hand, but its unclear when exactly hell return.

At some point, Samardzija (11-3, 4.37 ERA at Iowa) is expected to get a start with the Cubs before they scatter for the offseason.

It doesnt matter, Samardzija said. I want to pitch and show them what I can do. Its been a wild year-and-a-half, two years. All you can do is learn and improve. (Im) really comfortable with where Im at right now.

Aramis Ramirez, who hasnt played since Sunday, continues to receive treatment for his sore right quadriceps. Quades sense is that Ramirez isnt close to being ready to play third base for an entire game, but the manager hopes to have him available soon as a pinch-hitter.

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

Cubs bullpen finding its form after early-season struggles

Cubs bullpen finding its form after early-season struggles

It was just over a week ago when Cubs fans were freaking out about the bullpen's struggles in a weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was understandable, given Cubs relievers allowed 11 runs in the course of blowing two late leads to end that three-game sweep at the hand of the Bucs.

But since then, the Cubs bullpen has been fantastic.

In eight games entering Wednesday night's series finale with the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Cubs bullpen is working on a stretch where they've posted a 1.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over the last 28.2 innings.

In that span — in which the Cubs are 6 — relievers have allowed six runs (five earned) while striking out 33 batters and surrendering just one homer.

They've been especially stingy over the last three games, allowing just five baserunners in eight shutout innings, including three straight scoreless frames to close out a 1-0 victory Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Wade Davis has been the anchor at the back end of the bullpen the Cubs were hoping he'd be when they traded Jorge Soler for him over the winter. Davis is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities and has not allowed a run in 9.1 innings, allowing just three hits and a pair of walks in the season's first month.

Setting up in front of Davis, Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards Jr. have combined to allow one run and three hits in 15.1 innings.

Brian Duensing — who started the year on the disabled list after a back issue sapped his spring training — is still searching for a rhythm and has surrendered six runs and 10 hits in 6.1 innings on the season. Over the last week-and-a-half, the 34-year-old southpaw has allowed more runs (three) than the rest of the Cubs bullpen combined.

Take Duensing's numbers away from that same eight-game stretch and the Cubs bullpen has been even more fantastic — 0.73 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.

Of course, it's still not even May yet, so this stellar stretch is just another small sample size. 

But just like that, the Cubs suddenly have a Top 10 bullpen, tied for the Colorado Rockies for ninth in Major League Baseball with a 3.07 relief ERA.

Former Cub Chris Coghlan turns in the highlight of the year in eye-popping slide

Former Cub Chris Coghlan turns in the highlight of the year in eye-popping slide

Chris Coghlan may not be a Cub anymore, but he's still doin' his thing to help out his former team.

In the seventh inning Tuesday night, Coghlan — now with the Toronto Blue Jays — turned in the highlight of the year, channeling Willie Mays Hayes from "Major League 2" as he leapt over Yadier Molina to score:

Let's see that again from every angle:

"It just all happens like that," Coghlan told reporters after the game. "You're just trying to touch home plate and have as successful a landing as you possibly can. 

"I was in shock at first because my adrenaline was going so much. ... Any time you can get the boys fired up, it's worth it."

For the Cubs, it is all the more sweet that Coghlan accomplished the feat against Molina and the Cardinals in a 6-5 Blue Jays victory.

This isn't the only time Coghlan went the unconventional route to beat the Cardinals.

In August last year, Coghlan went to call time, it wasn't granted, so he stepped back in and drilled a two-out, two-run, game-tying single en route to a 4-3 Cubs victory:

Oh and here's Coghlan's inspiration for that slide: