3/12 Is Castro ready?

Teenage shortstop Starlin Castro has looked very smooth in the field and on Thursday, went 2-for-2 with his first spring home run, a single, a walk and scored three runs. He was leading off on Friday in the Cubs’ game against the Brewers.

“Because he’s 19, that doesn’t mean he can’t perform,” Aramis Ramirez said. “But at the same time, he’s still a young kid and can get better at the minors and come up and be a great player. I don’t think [age] is an issue.”

The concern with Castro is whether he’ll be overmatched in the big leagues. Can he handle failure?

“It depends on how he thinks mentally and how strong he is,” Alfonso Soriano said. “When you’re struggling and you think too much, you can’t get out of it. It depends on how smart he is and how he takes it. He’s so young. He’s doing good right now. I hope he continues doing good. but sometimes you can have little tests, struggle for one week — how do you get out of that? That’s what I worry about.”

Soriano knows how difficult it is for a young player to try to adjust to the big leagues. When he was 18, he went to Japan to play. He did not have any family, didn’t know the language, and lived on McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken for six months. Was he scared?

“Yes,” he said. “After six months, I started eating a little Japanese food. I had some friends there [after a while] and one of them would cook for us. But the first six months were not easy.”

If Castro was on the Cubs’ big league roster, he would not be as isolated as Soriano was. There are other Dominican players on the team. He’s working on his English.

“I know he has the talent,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to see him struggle. You see a lot of young guys with talent and they get frustrated in the big leagues. He could get frustrated. It depends on how smart he is.”

So, could Castro handle failure?

“Who says he’s going to fail?” Ramirez said. “You don’t know. He could, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. He’s good. He’s not going to hit .330 — hopefuly he will. You can’t ask a 19-, 20-year-old to hit .330. Hopefully, they give him the opportunity.”

Lou Piniella has maintained that the organization wants Castro to get more seasoning and open the year in the Minor Leagues. However, don’t expect the young infielder to be gone in the first or second round of cuts in camp. Castro could stay with the team until the end.

“He is a mature kid,” Ramirez said. “You can tell he doesn’t get too high. He doesn’t think he’s the No. 1 kid, the top prospect. He acts like he’s just another guy. He knows what he’s got and he shows it on the field.”

A scout who watched Castro in the Arizona Fall League said: “There’s not much I didn’t like.”

“We talk a lot,” Soriano said. “I tell him, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, enjoy it, have fun. You have your whole life in front of you. You’re 19-year-old. Just enjoy what you do.”

Castro has looked good both in the field and at the plate.

“He’s good,” Ramirez said. “He’s a good player. And he will be a good player.”

This year?

“Hopefully,” Ramirez said.

– Carrie Muskat

7 Comments

**ANNOYANCE DISCLAIMER: BREW READ NO FURTHER**
What a refreshing take from Ramirez, now that’s a POSITIVE attitude that pman and brewwhatever have been looking for? And I agree, he may not fail and he would make the Cubs stronger up the middle. I read in the Trib today I believe a Paul Sullivan article about Lou’s continuing insistance to keep Theriot at SS and not move him to 2B to make room for Castro yet in the same interview he leaves it up to Hendry and Bush to bring Castro to the big leagues????? Well Lou, what if THEY DO bring him up? You would still insist on Theriot at SS with Castro either on the bench (wasted) or at 2B (mis-used)?? That’s being too close minded, we need people with open minds that can accept situations as they present themselves. And if he’s just protecting Theriot’s “feelings” as some managers tend to do, that is a dis-service to Theriot who would probably take up the challenge of 2B with the same style and work ethic he has had since his call up…HUSTLE! It’s high time Hendry makes good on the entire organization and try’s breaking the mold for once, and not the bank. Oh, and did anybody read Dan McNeils article today? I gues he’s no fan of Hendry either (oh my!) as he had the nerve to share my opinion regarding Soriano’s and Nady’s contracts…how dare he, doesn’t he know that might ANNOY some people? Listen, I do see a lot of positives about the Cubs and one of them IS Castro as well as Wells, Marmol, Soto, Lee the Ram, Byrd but with Lou’s and Jim’s mindset of clubbing the other team to death by bringing in one dimensional players like Nady, Soriano, Millar (granted he didn’t make the team but what’s he even doing here?) and re-treads like Baker (not a BAD player but with Andres Blanco already here and Castro on the way…why exhaust the payroll on these guys?) it’s going to be the same old same old, all offense with little defense…bring in the new blood both on and off the field.

Joey, long time no talk. I kinda agree with you. I dont mind Baker and Millar. Soriano and Nady have DH written all over them and yet they are on a NL team. Millar can at least kind of play the field, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Castro up. I know hes not even 20 and the Cubs have screwed this up in the past but if Castro can hit 500 in ST can you really not send him north? A 20 year old castro and Riot infield sounds a lot better than a Riot and Baker infield. If the players think he can help the team win why doesnt the front office? I know its not this simple but if he can help the team win this year he goes north if not he stays in AAA with Ryno.

mlbfanwi, right, at least he would benefit from playing under Ryno. And I too do not mind Baker, I look at him more of a DeRosa type of substitute but not the everyday second baseman. The guys on the score are talking right now about Castro and bringing him up (agreeing with me/us) and being a better MAJOR LEAGUE team, it’s not about how good the AAA team can be….Millar? Sure he can still kinda play the field but we’ve got those guys all over the place and a lot cheaper. Also, didn’t he only hit around .220 last year in the majors? Just not the type of player YOU GO AFTER, is all I’m saying. Gotta go listen to the score as after all THEY’RE AGREEING WITH ME!! HA!
(to somebody’s annoyance no doubt). Good to see you back mlbfanwi whether or not we agree.

I think the biggest mistake the Cubs could possibly make to start the 2010 season is sending Castro down to the minors. He has already proved that he is able to hit major league pitching. Not only in spring training so far this year (.471 AVG, 8-17, .500 OBP) in 7 games, but also in A, AA, and AFL. All he does is hit anywhere he plays. Why would it be any different in the majors? And don’t get me wrong, Baker is a decent utility player, but why do the Cubs need him when that’s all Fontenot is, and Fontenot is a lefty. Send Baker packing, An infield (defensively) is much better with Castro’s range at SS and Theriot at 2B. The offense will also be much better with Castro’s great OBP at the top of the order moving all the sluggers down a spot. This is the lineup that would win the NL Central in my opinion: 1) Theriot 2) Castro 3) Fukudome (all 3 of them have GREAT OBP), 4) Lee 5) Ramirez 6)Byrd 7) Soriano 8)Soto 9) Zambrano……….Imagine a lineup where a guy that was ROY 2 years ago is batting eighth justt behind a $136 million dollar man. Can you imagine the possibilities. If Fontenot or Baker were playing instead of Castro, they would break up the dominant lineup to something like this: Theriot, Fukudome, Lee, Ramirez, Byrd, Soriano, Soto, Fontenot. ………I’m sorry, but it’s pretty obvious that Castro helps the Cubs out a lot more than Baker/Fontenot do. Why have a mediocre hitter like Fontenot batting just before the pitcher when you can have Castro help set the table for the sluggers?? It makes no sense to me why this is such a hard decision for Pinella?

FYI……….Castro has an OPS of 1.324 so far in spring training even with an 0-3 day on Friday……… Fontenot has a 1.101 (w/ 3 less ABs) and that’ll change in the seasonlike last years’ .677 OPS………….Baker has a .277 OPS so far in spring training (1-13) and had a .768 last year……….so in more at bats castro has performed much better than both Baker and Fontenot.

I’m not saying to keep Fontenot instead of Baker as the utility man only because he has the same exact birthday as me (6/9/1980). He’s a lefty and plays SS, 2B, and 3B. I’m sure he could play 1B and the OF also if needed. Not any different the Baker. Why have 2 utility players?

Cardswho, you make a good point about Castro, but here are a few problems I have with your argument and with Castro starting in Chicago. First, despite a bad year last year I think Fontenot will have a very good year this year and get his career kick started if he’s given a chance to start again and with him being left handed, as well as having a great spring, I think he should be given a shot. Second, if Fontenot has a great first month or two and Castro has a great couple months in Iowa then the Cubs have the option of either letting Castro finish the year with Ryno, gaining great experience, or they can either trade Fontenot or Theriot for some pitching help or for some minor leaguers. In my mind the worst case scenario would be Fontenot or Theriot struggle for the first couple of months and the Cubs call Castro up and let him start at short. I think starting him in Iowa is a no brainer as there is very little advantage to letting him start the year in Chicago.

cardswho….who are you??? Where have you been all this time?? I can’t believe it….somebody echoing my thoughts. You nailed it. Bring up Castro, get better defense up the middle RIGHT AWAY as NOBODY should argue the point that Castro is hands down better defensivley than Theriot and Theriot would be as good if not better at second than Baker or Fontenot and why give Fontenot ANOTHER chance to start again when Castro is beating down the door like gangbusters? There is and has been for too long an unexplicable love affair between the Cubs management and either aging veterans or AAAA type of players. We’ve been there and done that adnauseum….time for a radical approach for the Cubs. Start Castro, keep Fontenot on the bench for utility reasons only, same with Baker if Hendry must keep him and….Cardswho for GM!!!

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