Cubs GM Hoyer defends Starlin Castro, still sees All-Star potential

Cubs GM Hoyer defends Starlin Castro, still sees All-Star potential
August 20, 2013, 12:15 am
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Cubs vs. Nationals, 7 p.m.
on Comcast SportsNet

On the hill: Dan Haren (7-11, 4.79 ERA); Chris Rusin (2-2, 3.06 ERA)

Nationals at at a glance: 60-64 (2nd in National League East, 16 GB Braves) ... -32 run differential ... 24-35 on the road.

Nationals pitching leaders: Wins - Jordan Zimmermann (14); ERA - Stephen Strasburg (2.93); WHIP - Strasburg (1.06) Strikeouts - Gio Gonzalez (155); Saves - Rafael Soriano (31)

Nationals batting leaders: Average - Ian Desmond (.272); Home runs - Adam Laroche (18); RBIs - Desmond (58); OPS - Desmond (.791); Stolen bases - Desmond (16)

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That’s one way to take the focus off Starlin Castro and turn down all the noise about the Cubs benching their two-time All-Star shortstop (or trading him or sending him down to Triple-A Iowa).

Hours after trading David DeJesus to the Washington Nationals, the Cubs watched Jeff Samardzija dominate them for nine innings on Monday night at Wrigley Field. Nate Schierholtz put up two homers and six RBI in an 11-1 victory in front of 31,290, again showing why he makes sense as an outfield piece for 2014.

The Cubs are 54-70 and no one really expected them to make much noise this season. But they did expect more out of Castro, who had another 0-for-4 that dropped his average .242. This almost exactly a year after getting that $60 million contract, nearly two years after he led the National League in hits.

[RELATED: Castro taking responsibility for mental gaffe

More than 48 hours after another mental mistake – letting the St. Louis Cardinals score on an infield fly – allowed the talking heads and Chicago fans on Twitter to take a momentary break from dissecting Jay Cutler.

“He’s sort of the brightest light on the team,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Because of that, there’s probably undue focus on his struggles. I don’t look at it like people try to isolate him. I do think that he made a really bad play the other day. He’s had a few of those. He has to stop doing that. I don’t think anyone is forgiving that. But how we look at it is he’s having a down year.

[MORE: Mental mistakes encapsulates Castro's season to forget]

“There’s no reason in the world to think he can’t get back to the way he played as a 21-year-old. We have to get to the bottom (of it) as a staff, why he’s hasn’t had as good a year, how we can get him better. Isolating him and focusing on him as a negative doesn’t help that. This is a guy that – when he’s right – is one of the more talented players in the game.”

Insiders say Castro is coachable, a hard worker and a good teammate, while admitting he should have stopped spacing out in the field a long time ago. At 23, he’s not a kid anymore.

[ALSO: Castro's mistake lowlight of a rough day for Cubs]

“He’s been a really good player in the big leagues,” Hoyer said. “We know he can do it. It’s not like he’s lost any athleticism or bat speed. It’s a matter of getting back to that point. I don’t think we should make excuses for him either.”