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.

Sore Adam Eaton out of White Sox lineup for several days

Sore Adam Eaton out of White Sox lineup for several days

CLEVELAND — Adam Eaton feels sore everywhere and chances are slim he’d play again before he is re-evaluated on Monday when the team returns home.

But the White Sox outfielder said Saturday afternoon that he felt better than he did Friday when he was cleared for a concussion after crashing into the outfield wall making a fantastic catch.

Eaton, who left in the sixth inning of Friday’s game, said he stayed down on the ground for several minutes after he knocked the wind out of himself. Manager Robin Ventura mostly ruled Eaton out for Saturday and Sunday after his hip, shoulder and back were all involved.

“If anybody has ever been in a car accident, it’s kind of the same thing,” Eaton said. “It’s taking inventory of the body parts and making sure everything is back to where we’re supposed to be, and as soon as that is accounted for, we’ll get back out there and play again.

“It seemed like I passed (the concussion test) pretty well.”

Whereas early in his career the White Sox asked Eaton, who played as if his hair were on fire, to dial it back, Ventura appreciated the outfielder’s effort. Not only was there a possibility Eaton could get to the ball, he made a fantastic grab before slamming into the wall. Ventura applauded how much progress Eaton has made in knowing when and when not to go all out in the name of his own safety.

“He’s been a lot better,” Ventura said. “He would run after balls that were probably 10 rows deep. …

“Before he was just out there running crazy and right now he has a better understanding of what he can get to. Last night was just a great play, he runs into the wall and gets himself banged up.”

Staying on the field has made Eaton an extremely valuable asset for the White Sox. Not only is he a strong candidate to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, Eaton has a .791 OPS in 683 plate appearances. He headed into Saturday seventh among the American League position players with 6 Wins Above Replacement. And he has proven versatile with the ability to play right and center field and hit in several spots in the lineup.

“When you look what he does … he’s been pretty dang valuable,” Ventura said.

Eaton feels like part of the value he brings is his willingness to go all out for his teammates. He doesn’t intend to slow down any more than he already has. Eaton said Saturday he was a little ticked by some of the responses he received on social media after the play, feeling like he would have heard criticism if he had backed off.

“You play hard and then all of a sudden you get hurt playing hard and then people have a problem with it and then they say you should play hard,” Eaton said.

“Instead of choosing my body, I chose my team. People can curse me for it, but the day that I backpedal and let the ball hit off the wall is the day I’m going to quit baseball.”

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