Cubs notes: Sveum says Castro’s defense needs to improve

Cubs notes: Sveum says Castro’s defense needs to improve
June 23, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Starlin Castro’s struggles continue.

A 1-for-5 performance in Saturday’s loss dropped his batting average to a new season low of .231. But more glaringly, his throwing error in the third inning was his 12th of the season, the most among big league shortstops and the second-most of any player in baseball. Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez led the league with 13 errors entering play Sunday.

Castro was out early ahead of Sunday’s game practicing his defense.

“There’s a lot of things in his defense that need to get better,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Today he was just working on his backhand, trying to get more stabilized, have a base when you throw the ball and not be so off-balance and understand the different things you have to have in your toolbox. Your backhand, there’s all different kinds of backhands according to the runner: slow, fast, medium grounders, backhand it, come in and backhand it. So it’s just some things you’ve got to get cleaned up.

“It’s having things in your toolbox and understanding that these are why things happen, this is why it’s happening. And he’s got to understand that, as well, so these things don’t keep happening. The body-control plays are still an issue that’s got to get better. The backhand and the body control are probably the two things he has trouble with the most.”

Castro’s errors have come to define him as a defensive work-in-progress, but his potential always seems to show itself. An inning after his miscue Saturday, Castro made a tremendous play on a grounder up the middle to steal a hit and show off his impressive range.

Of course, it’s not just the defense. Castro is currently mired in a prolonged slump at the plate. Entering play Sunday, Castro had just nine hits in the month of June -- with three of those coming in a single game against the Reds back on June 13. But, while hits have been elusive, Sveum said he doesn’t see the slump affecting Castro too much mentally.

“So far [he’s been handling things well mentally],” Sveum said. “I don’t see him going off the deep end. ... But these are things that everybody goes through. It’s part of the adversity that goes along with playing in the major leagues or any major sport. It’s ups and downs, and some guys have peaks and valleys and some guys, it’s a level playing field all the time. For the most part, you’re going to go through this kind of thing sometime in your career.”

In wake of close calls, Sveum talks replay

A day after two calls went against the Cubs and cost them a chance to break a tied game in the eighth inning on Saturday, you knew the question was coming:

Dale Sveum, would you like to see more replay in Major League Baseball?

“I don’t know. I know they’re thinking about it and what avenues they can go down with that,” the Cubs manager said before the series finale with the Astros on Sunday. “I think at certain times, yeah, they could use it. But for the most part, it’s the game and that’s the world we live in.”

Sveum put in his argument with the umpires in the eighth on Saturday when Alfonso Soriano was picked off at second base when the Cubs were starting to get something going in a tied game. Another close call -- a pitch Darwin Barney thought was ball four that would’ve forced in the go-ahead run -- went against the Cubs, and their eighth-inning rally couldn’t produce a run. They went on to lose the game, 4-3, after the Astros scored in the top of the ninth.

Sveum complained about both calls after the game in his postgame press conference. Would he be more receptive to replay when framed in the context of those two potentially game-altering calls?

“I think more than anything, you’d have to do something in regards like the NFL. You get two challenges, you get one in the first five innings, one in the last four innings, and then maybe the last two minutes everything’s under review,” he said with a laugh.

“I think if you did go to whatever format possible, they’d have to have somebody in the booth on some kind of microphone saying, ‘You got it wrong, you got it right.’ Instead of four guys having to go in and check it themselves, there’d be an extra guy and you could get it done within 30 seconds.”

Iowa shuffles roster, Clevenger still hurting

With more eyes on the Cubs’ minor league system than ever, it’s of the interest of many to see what’s happening down on the farm. Saturday, the Triple-A Iowa Cubs made several roster moves of note.

Outfielder Brett Jackson went to the disabled list, injured with a left calf strain, and outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha was promoted from Double-A Tennessee. Meanwhile, the suspension of third baseman Ian Stewart is over. He was suspended earlier in the month after ranting against the organization on Twitter. He was reinstated from the suspended list on Saturday.

This follows the trades of a pair of Cubs veteran minor leaguers. Infielder Brent Lillibridge was sent to the Yankees on Friday, and pitcher Hisanori Takahashi was traded to the Rockies on Saturday.

Finally, while rehabbing Saturday with Iowa, Cubs injured utility man Steve Clevenger felt general tightness in his side. He did not re-injure the oblique which he is nursing back to health, but he will be reevaluated in a few days. His original rehab assignment has concluded after 20 days, but if all goes well, he’s expected to begin another.