3/1 The kids will get a chance to play
Expect Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee in the Cubs’ lineup Thursday when they open Cactus League play against Oakland. Starlin Castro could be starting at shortstop, too. Lou Piniella planned to talk to hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo about some lineup options.
“I might just start Castro at shortstop Thursday and give him some playing time,” Piniella said.
Fans aren’t the only ones who want to see the super-hyped infielder play.
“I’m anxious to see the kid myself, I’ll be honest with you,” Piniella said Monday. “He handles himself very professionally for a young kid out here. The more experience we can get this young man in Spring Training, the better.”
Just 19 years old, Castro has fit right in.
“He’s calm, he’s not awed by being here,” Piniella said. “He’s relaxed, he’s not starry eyed. If you didn’t know he was 19 years old, you couldn’t guess he was 19.”
Ramirez and Lee both told Piniella they’d like to play. Usually, veterans need a few more days of batting practice before a game. Alfonso Soriano most likely will not start and Xavier Nady isn’t ready to play the outfield yet. Nady, coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, is still working on his throwing mechanics with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
The pitchers may not hit either. Opposing teams have asked to use the designated hitter at the Cubs’ home park, and Piniella said that’s OK with him. The White Sox, who play the Cubs on Saturday at HoHoKam Stadium, have asked to use the DH.
“I told them [yes] only because of Ozzie [Guillen],” Piniella said, laughing.
It’s not such a bad idea at this point in Spring Training.
“This gives me a chance to take a look at a few hitters,” Piniella said, “and it gives me a chance to play Nady if he’s not ready with his elbow and it’ll give me a chance to play a couple younger kids in the outfield.”
Castro isn’t the only young player Piniella wants to see. Andrew Cashner, the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2008, also will get a look. He’s got a chance to make the big league team, too.
“I’ll be honest with you, there are open spots here on our pitching staff,” Piniella said. “We’re going to have to take some young pitching out of here. It doesn’t really matter who it is, whoever wants it, go out and compete. They’re going to get opportunities, whether it’s Cashner or whomever. There’s distinct possibilities for anyone who wants a job.”
So, don’t assume the candidates are the ones with the most experience.
“You tend to stay with your more veteran guys like [Sean] Marshall, [Carlos] Silva, [Jeff] Samardzija, [Tom] Gorzelanny, [Mike] Parisi,” Piniella said. “How about if Cashner is lights out and we put him in the bullpen? I’m just talking out loud.”
You never know.
— Carrie Muskat