Mooney: Plotting the future for Castro, Colvin

Mooney: Plotting the future for Castro, Colvin

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
9:48 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Within a span of about 72 hours and less than a year removed from Class-A Daytona Starlin Castro learned all you need to know about playing in Chicago.

Castro showed up in Cincinnati on May 7 and looked like the spark an underachieving team needed. He homered in his first at-bat and set a major-league record with six RBI in his debut.

Three nights later, he was booed during his first game at Wrigley Field. He committed three errors and didnt run after a ball, nearly becoming a billboard for lack of hustle.

Between those highs and lows, the 20-year-old shortstop has found a medium. With five plate appearances Monday night, he qualified for the leader board and entered Tuesday fifth in the National League with a .313 batting average.

Yes, Ian Desmond (29) is the only player in the majors who has committed more errors than Castro (20) this season, and the Washington Nationals shortstop has been on this level for about a month longer in 2010.

But Castro is a willing student, and hes shown that he cares, slamming his helmet to the ground several times in frustration after making an out. Hes made the adjustments, hitting .227 in June, .361 in July and .331 this month.

Adrenalines a wonderful thing, manager Mike Quade said. But then he had a little down period and recovered really quickly to do what hes doing now. (If) you finish strong after everybody has a look at you (around the league), that says a lot about your talent.

Cubs vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita who oversees the minor-league system and international scouting operations expects Castro to train at the teams academy in the Dominican Republic during the offseason.

By late November, Fleita would also like to see Castro playing winter ball. There is a relationship with Leones del Escogido, where general manager Moises Alou put together a team that won last years Caribbean World Series.

Now its easy to envision Castro as the Cubs shortstop for the next decade. Less clear is where exactly Tyler Colvin fits into those plans.

Colvin, who will turn 25 next week, continues to work out at first base before games. Quade likes to plan several days in advance and does not see Colvin starting there this weekend against the New York Mets.

On Monday the outfielder fired a bullet from right to throw out a runner and it made Quade think of Andre Dawson, the eight-time Gold Glove winner who was honored that night at Wrigley Field.

Thats why we dont want to get carried away with it, Quade said. He does an excellent job in the outfield (and) his work at first will not hurt him at all defensively out there. His diligence to both positions will take care of that. Its just something to fool around with, but its not imminent at all.

If Colvin proves he can handle playing first base, it would give the Cubs options heading into 2011. But they also dont want to mess with a player whos had a nice rookie season but is struggling in August with a .227 average and a .284 on-base percentage. He has to reach a certain comfort level.

You got to find out about the kids one way or the other, Quade said. Given the situation were in, you wouldnt do it against a contender, for sure, but its not out of the question. Theres (29) games left and wed still like to do that.

Those are the decisions being played out all across the organization. The minor-league clubs woke up Tuesday morning with a 356-299 cumulative record and Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee looking to win championships.

The Cubs have assigned seven players to the Arizona Fall League. Outfielder Brett Jackson, a 2009 first-round pick, will be there alongside infielder Josh Vitters. The third overall pick in 2007 draft, Vitters broke his finger last month but is expected to begin taking groundballs and hitting within the next several days.

Pitchers Kyle Smit, who was acquired in the Ted Lilly deal, and David Cales, a Mount Carmel High School graduate, will also head to Arizona. Pitchers Chris Carpenter and Jake Muyco and infielder Ryan Flaherty will be joining them in Mesa.

Considering that Castro played in the Arizona Fall League last year, and that an organization stressing player development has already used 16 rookies this season, the desert doesnt seem that far away from Lake Michigan.

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

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell earned his manager’s trust by playing “boring” defense, always making the routine plays at shortstop with textbook fundamentals. Even Russell’s agent called him an “old soul,” already serious about his craft and driven by quiet determination and husband-and-father responsibilities.

But the Cubs also know Russell as a moonwalking showman with the freaky athleticism to do Ozzie Smith backflips and make spectacular highlight-reel plays. And you could see the vroom-vroom, fist-pumping celebrations after yet another clutch hit.

“Ever since I was a little kid,” Russell said, “I always wanted to be on the big screen.”

Now Russell will try to make the leap to superstar, as one of the many personalities on a Cubs team that can crossover nationally and live forever in Chicago, just like the ’85 Bears, the way Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have built their brands.

“We got great ballplayers, beautiful faces on this team,” Russell said. “Just talent galore in this clubhouse, and that’s really cool to see, because these guys handle themselves like real, true professionals.”

The start of spring training is a reminder that Russell has still only spent one wire-to-wire season in The Show. He turned 23 last month and has already become a World Series champion, the youngest player in franchise history to start an All-Star Game and the first Cub shortstop to reach 95 RBI since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Russell’s World Series grand slam helped him accumulate the most postseason RBI (14) in club history – after putting up 11 game-winning RBI for a 103-win team. FanGraphs also had Russell tying San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford for the major-league lead with 19 defensive runs saved at shortstop.

“Really, the sky’s the limit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy is scratching the surface. He is that good. Know thyself – I think that’s what’s happening with a lot of our young guys. They’re understanding themselves better. And as they do, their game’s going to continue to improve.

“So with Addie, listen, he could be an annual All-Star, there’s no question. Beyond that, he’s just such a gifted athlete, so quick, and he cares so much. And he’s really turned out to be a good self-evaluator, so all those are components to creating a superstar.”

Russell said he’s working with Boras Corp. on potential endorsements with Pepsi and Audi. He visited a Nike headquarters in Oregon to help design his custom cleats and custom glove. He also posted images from the White House on his social-media accounts, which have nearly 549,000 followers combined between Twitter and Instagram.

“The opportunities are coming, which is great,” Russell said. “It’s a whole new playing field. I’m glad that I’m getting to see a different side of baseball, where I can actually find a couple talents off the baseball field. It’s all interesting stuff.”

It’s also taken some getting used to, as he almost had trouble remembering how many “Addison Russell Days” there were in Florida, between events at Pace High School and with the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners.

“This whole fame thing is really new to me,” Russell said. “Walking everywhere, people want autographs and stuff. Different airports, different cities, it’s very humbling. It’s a great blessing. I’m just a small-town guy, so it hit me pretty hard.”

Like the moment Russell realized what the Cubs just did, after the whirlwind of riding in the championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, standing on stage in front of millions at the Grant Park rally and going to Disney World.

“I remember this past offseason, going into my mom’s room and laying down on her bed,” Russell said. “That’s when all the memories of this past year – all the way from spring training (to) the All-Star Game and then the World Series run – it all hit me at once. It was overbearing, kind of, and I started crying.

“That’s when it sunk in. It was just a magical moment.”