#Cubs notes: Castro, Soler, pilates

* Starlin Castro has batted fourth, fifth and sixth this season, but lately Cubs manager Joe Maddon is sticking with the shortstop in the No. 4 spot, although he’s batting .233 there. Maddon said he looked at the alternatives and felt Castro was the best fit because of his ability to “move the baseball.”

“It’s all about putting the whole puzzle together,” Maddon said. “I think he’s doing better than people want to give him credit for.”

* Jorge Soler is batting .105 with runners in scoring position and two outs, and .254 with runners on. When nobody is on base, he’s hitting .297.

“What I think with that is he’s trying too hard,” Maddon said of the stats with runners in scoring position.

The key for young hitters, Maddon said, is they need to stay focused on their strike zone and not chase.

“A young hitter like that has to understand what’s going on around him right now, be patient, get into better counts, and then I can do some damage,” Maddon said.

Are there really clutch hitters?

“I think there are born good hitters and when they get up there with people on base, they’ll drive the guys in,” Maddon said.

* In what was a first, Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta did his pilates workout while Maddon held court with reporters in the interview room. There isn’t enough space in the exercise room for the machine Arrieta was using. Maddon was happier on the podium than doing pilates.

“I tried that years ago and felt like an absolute uncoordinated fool,” Maddon said.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Minor League games to be broadcast

Want to watch the Cubs Minor Leaguers but can’t go to the games? Comcast SportsNet will carry 15 live Minor League games this season, beginning Sunday with the Iowa Cubs vs. the Padres’ El Paso Chihuahuas at 6 p.m. CT.

Additional games featuring young Cubs will be June 7 at 5 p.m. CT on CSN+ when Myrtle Beach plays hosts to Carolina.

Please note that Sunday’s game will be on the main Comcast SportsNet channel location while the remaining 14 telecasts will air on CSN+. Please check CSNChicago.com’s channel finder to locate the games.

#Cubs Minor League report

Monday’s games

Eric Jokisch gave up four earned runs over 4 1/3 innings in Iowa’s 8-3 loss to Reno. Taylor Davis and Rubi Silva each homered, and Arismendy Alcantara had three hits and a stolen base.

Wilson Contreras hit a two-run homer to lead Tennessee to a 6-4 win over Montgomery. Felix Pena picked up the win, giving up three runs over six innings. He struck out nine.

Myrtle Beach shut out Potomac, 3-0. Jen-Ho Tseng gave up two hits over six scoreless innings, striking out six. Jeimer Candelario had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs.

South Bend lsot 12-8 to Bowling Green. Jesse Hodges hit a solo home run and Cael Brockmeyer belted a three-run homer. Gleyber Torres had three hits and two RBIs.

#Cubs lineup vs. Nationals for Tue

Weather permitting, the Cubs will play host to the Nationals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks, who threw a complete game shutout in his last start, will take the mound. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Montero C

Soler RF

Coghlan LF

Hendricks P

Russell 2B

* The Cubs have lost consecutive games by just one run. So far, 14 of the Cubs’ 24 games this month have been decided by one run. They have won eight of those 14 games. The 22 one-run games this season are the most in the Majors (12-10 record).

* The Cubs are looking to avoid three consecutive losses at Wrigley Field for the first time this season.

* Hendricks is coming off his first career shutout on Thursday vs. the Padres. Hendricks allowed five hits and struck out seven in a 3-0 Cubs win. Prior to his last start, Hendricks had completed six innings in just one of his seven starts.

* Kris Bryant has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games with a .340 AVG (17-for-50) in that span. Bryant has hit safely in eight straight games at Wrigley Field, while posting a .480 AVG (12-for-25) with four home runs and nine RBI.

* The 432 strikeouts by Cubs’ hitters this season are the most in the Majors.

#Cubs Minor League report: Baez, Schwarber, Null

Sunday’s results

Javier Baez hit two home runs and Arismendy Alcantara added another in Iowa’s 7-4 victory over Tacoma. Baez’s homers marked his third straight multi-hit and multi-RBI game. Christian Villanueva had four hits. Donn Roach started but lasted one-third of an inning. He was struck in the calf by a ball. He had stopped while warming up for the game after feeling some tightness in his back.

Kyle Schwarber had three hits in Tennessee’s 4-0 loss to Montgomery. Ivan Pineyro gave up three earned runs over 5 2/3 innings and took the loss.

Myrtle Beach lost, 1-0, to Potomac. Tyler Skulina gave up one run on four hits over six innings, striking out six. Jordan Hankins had two hits.

South Bend beat Bowling Green, 6-2. Jeremy Null gave up two runs over six innings and got the win to improve to 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA. Yasiel Balaguert had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs. Gleyber Torres had two hits and two RBIs.

Final Nats 2, #Cubs 1

Wilson Ramos hit a solo home run in the sixth to lead the Nationals to a 2-1 victory over the Cubs on Monday at Wrigley Field. Kris Bryant accounted for the Cubs only run, hitting a solo home run in the first. Bryant also had an infield single. He’s recorded a RBI in five of his last six games.

In his second start of the season, Tsuyoshi Wada did not get a decision. He gave up one run on four hits and struck out six over 5 1/3 innings. Wada is 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA in nine-career starts at Wrigley Field.

It was the Cubs’ first loss to a NL East opponent since Aug. 16 last year vs. the Mets.

* The two teams meet again at Wrigley on Tuesday night. Kyle Hendricks, who threw a complete game shutout in his last outing, gets the start for the Cubs.

Could Schwarber help #Cubs? Sure, Maddon says

Kyle Schwarber may not be ready right now to catch in the big leagues but Cubs manager Joe Maddon feels the youngster could help with his bat.

Schwarber, 22, ranked No. 4 on MLB.com’s list of top Cubs prospects, was batting .296 at Double-A Tennessee with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs this season. Maddon sees the catcher’s offensive exploits when they’re posted on the new video board at Wrigley Field.

“He’s a a very mature at-bat,” Maddon said of the left-handed hitting catcher, who was the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. “He’s doing better behind the plate, too, from what I understand.”

Maddon said anyone who doubts Schwarber will be in the big leagues soon should just ask him.

“He’s pretty confident,” Maddon said. “He’s a very mature hitter at his experience level and his age.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs lineup vs D-backs: Here’s Johnny

Jason Hammel starts Sunday in the Cubs’ series finale against the D-backs at Chase Field. Jonathan Herrera gets the start at second base in place of Addison Russell. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Montero C

Soler RF

Coghlan LF

Hammel P

Herrera 2B

* The Cubs have won nine of their last 12 games, posting a team ERA of 2.78 over that span.

* Hammel went seven innings, giving up two unearned runs and took a no decision in an eventual Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the

Padres on Tuesday. He hasn’t lost a start since April 22 against the Pirates, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five starts since that most recent loss.

* D-backs starter Jeremy Hellickson is going up against his former manager, Joe Maddon. Hellickson pitched under Maddon from 2010-2014, winning the AL Rookie of the Year in 2011.

* The Cubs have just two home runs from their cleanup hitters — Kris Bryant and Starlin Castro — this season, which is
tied with the Pirates for the fewest home runs from the cleanup spot in MLB. Their .364 SLG from the No. 4 hole
is 25th in MLB.

* Bryant is batting .349 (15-43 AB) with four home runs and 13 RBI during his twelve-game hitting streak. He has 24 walks (.401 OBP) since making his Major League on April 17. That’s the second most in the National League over that span (Bryce Harper: 32 BB).

* Anthony Rizzo has hit safely in his last six games against Arizona dating back to last April, batting .360 (9-25 AB) with
five homers and eleven RBI. Rizzo’s .444 on base percentage ranks third best among qualified major league hitters this season. Only Bryce Harper (.464) and Miguel Cabrera (.447) are better.

* Miguel Montero is batting just .059 (1-17 AB) with six strikeouts in his last five games.

#Cubs to host Nats, Royals at Wrigley Field

The Cubs return home Monday to play host to the Nationals and Royals. It’ll be a good test. The Nats lead the NL East and the Royals are on top in the AL Central. Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday: LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0, 3.86) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (0-2, 2.66)
Tuesday: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 4.14) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4-2, 3.52)
Wednesday: LHP Jon Lester (4-2, 3.56) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (5-3 ,1.67)

The Cubs are ready.

“We’ve been aware that we have a tough schedule coming up,” Jake Arrieta said. “We approach games with equal importance regardless of who the opponent is. At the end of the day, every one counts. We’ve seen several times how seasons can come down to the final four, five days determining who gets in and who goes home.

“We’re going to value these games just like any other but it’s kind of a measuring stick with a team like Washington and Kansas City which has continued to grow and get better as a team,” Arrieta said. “It’ll be an exciting couple series at home for us. We know what we have to do to win and get ready.”

* Monday’s seventh inning stretch singer will be a country music artist who will be announced leading up to a surprise concert in Wrigleyville.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Minor League report: Beeler, Black, Candelario

Saturday’s games

Dallas Beeler gave up one unearned run over six innings in Iowa’s 13-7 victory over Tacoma. Rubi Silva had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Javier Baez had three hits and two RBIs, plus a walk. It was his second straight multi-hit and multi-RBI game. Taylor Davis had two hits and two RBIs. Beeler struck out six.

In his first start coming off the disabled list, Corey Black gave up one hit over five innings and struck out six in Tennessee’s 2-1 loss to Montgomery. Black did not get a decision.

Jeimer Candelario hit two solo home runs to help Myrtle Beach beat Potomac, 7-3. Paul Blackburn picked up the win, giving up two runs over six innings in his first quality start of the season. Pin-Chieh Chen drove in two runs.

South Bend lost, 6-3, to Bowling Green. Cael Brockmeyer had two hits and two RBIs. Jake Stinnett started, and gave up one run over three innings. Gioskar Amaya had three hits.

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