Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
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.