Cubs expecting Castro and Jackson to snap out of it

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Cubs expecting Castro and Jackson to snap out of it

SAN DIEGO Theo Epstein says the Cubs dont want cookie-cutter hitters. But Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson will be hearing voices as they try to get to the next level. If they dont, then this rebuild could take even longer than expected.

Those Boston Red Sox teams were known for grinding out at-bats and playing games that could easily last four hours on national television. Dale Sveum has very specific ideas about hitting and coached up Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun with the Milwaukee Brewers.

This isnt completely rewiring Castro, who at the age of 21 played in the All-Star Game and led the National League in hits with 207 last season. And its still way too early to rush to judgment on Jackson, who has eight strikeouts in his first 11 at-bats in the big leagues.

But how they finish this season will have to color how the Cubs think about 2013.

As much as Castro smiles in the clubhouse and shrugs off bad games, it definitely bothered him between the lines. Hes been known to throw bats and slam helmets in frustration. He finally snapped an 0-for-21 streak with a single in Wednesdays 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres.

But the Cubs manager wont be surprised by these droughts until adjustments are made. That could be a project for this winter.

Its just making him understand he doesnt need all this extra movement, Sveum said. (Its taking) all the guesswork out of the timing involved with the leg lift and about three different hand movements he does by the time the guys getting ready to let go of the ball. (Otherwise) the timing factors just not going to be right on a consistent basis.

Castros average has dipped to .273, after never falling below .299 last season. He turned it on as a rookie in 2010 to finish right at .300. Sveum is looking for more.

Even though he was hitting .300 at the beginning of the year, it was a lot of off-the-end-of-the-bat, seeing-eye base hits, Sveum said. What Im talking about is a guy thats so gifted he should be able to hit the ball harder on a consistent basis. Were all trying to get (to) the higher level. (Its) not to be always satisfied with chasing hits.

The Cubs fired hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in June and promoted James Rowson, a minor-league coordinator they felt would be a fresh voice to deliver their message.

This kind of thing never happened for me, and I dont feel too good about that, Castro said. Im working with (Rowson) every day, doing my routine every day. Its nothing different. Ive seen the video last year and this year its nothing different. It just happens in the game.

Part of the logic in promoting Jackson last weekend was that he would be able to work directly with Sveum and Rowson after striking out 158 times in 407 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa.

Jackson sat on Wednesday against Padres lefty Clayton Richard, but is in line to face four right-handers in the upcoming four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. The night before, Sveum saw Jackson go through four different hand positions and three different setups and finish 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk.

This was part of the reason why we called him up, to see firsthand and get a good grip on whats going on, Sveum said. Its not like hes swinging through anything (when) the balls in the strike zone. Right now, hes just swinging out of the strike zone.

The Cubs arent worried about Jacksons state of mind or how he will handle failure in the spotlight.

Hes a confident kid that knows theres just something a little wrong (and it) needs to change to move forward, Sveum said. This is big-league pitching. Theyre not going to give in. (But hes) willing to make adjustments to succeed here.

This is what Jackson wanted from the moment he signed out of Cal-Berkeley as a first-round pick in 2009. Hes prepared to ride out all the ups and downs.

Thats how well you can adapt, how professional you can be, Jackson said. Thats something Im going to put together.

Morning Update: Bulls prep for Game 4; Cubs won; Sox lost

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AP

Morning Update: Bulls prep for Game 4; Cubs won; Sox lost

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in Game 4 today on CSN

Preview: Cubs look to sweep Reds on CSN

White Sox scoreless streak hits 23 innings in loss to Indians

No clear options for Fred Hoiberg at point guard

Two days later, Blackhawks still stunned, 'embarrassed' by quick exit

Cubs offense explodes with three home runs in victory over Reds

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

White Sox prospect Carson Fulmer: 'Our time is coming soon'

Still in mourning, Isaiah Thomas dictates pace, delivers for Celtics

Jacob May gets 'Harambe' off his back with first career hit

Jacob May gets 'Harambe' off his back with first career hit

Jacob May gets 'Harambe' off his back with first career hit

Jacob May earned his first career hit on Saturday night when he singled up in the middle against Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco, ending an 0-for-26 start to his major league career. That lengthy stretch without a hit put a weight on May's back heavier than a monkey, as the cliché usually goes.

Instead, that weight felt like America's favorite deceased silverback gorilla. 

"It was kind of like having Harambe on my back," May, a Cincinnati native, said. "I was in a chokehold because I couldn't breathe as well. Now that he's gone, hopefully I can have a lot of success and help this team win.

In all seriousness, May felt an extraordinary relief when he reached first base. He said first base coach Daryl Boston looked at him and said, "Finally," when he reached first base, and when he got back to the dugout, he was mobbed by his teammates and hugged by manager Rick Renteria.

Before anyone could congratulate him in the dugout, though, May let out a cathartic scream into his helmet.

"I was just like oh, man, I let loose a little bit," May said. "This locker room, every'one has kind of helped me out and brought me aside, and told me to just relax. It's a tough situation when you are trying to impress instead of going out there and having fun. Just kind of got to release all that tension built up."

May only had the opportunity to hit because left fielder Melky Cabrera injured his left wrist in the top of the seventh inning (X-Rays came back negative and Cabrera said he should be able to play Sunday). May didn't have much time to think about having to pinch hit for Cabrera, who was due to lead off the bottom of the seventh, which Renteria figured worked in his favor.

"When we hit for Melky, I was talking to (bench coach Joe McEwing), I said, 'He's not going to have anytime to think about it. He's going to get into the box and keep it probably as simple as possible,'" Renteria said. "I don't think he even had enough time to put his guard on his shin. He just got a pitch out over the middle of the plate and stayed within himself and just drove it up the middle, which was nice to see. Obviously very excited for him."

When May reached first base, he received a standing ovation from the crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field, too, even with the White Sox well on their way to a 7-0 loss to the Indians. It's a moment May certainly won't forget anytime soon, especially now that he got Harambe off his back.

"I kind of soaked it all in," May said. "It was probably one of the most surreal, best experiences of my life."