Results tagged ‘ Starlin Castro ’
The Cubs are making sure shortstop Starlin Castro reports to Spring Training in better shape. The team assigned strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss to the Dominican Republic to work with Castro for three weeks in November. In January, Castro will start workouts at the Cubs’ facility in the Dominican. The shortstop is coming off his worst year, batting .245 this past season. GM Jed Hoyer said other teams have expressed interest in Castro, knowing the team has shortstop Javier Baez coming up in the organization.
“We’ve always gotten hits on [Castro],” Hoyer said Monday during his media briefing at the Winter Meetings. “I think people see him as a guy who was one of the best young players in the game a couple years ago.”
In 2011, Castro totaled 207 hits and batted .307, and followed that in 2012 with a .283 season. He asked the Cubs to help him as far as an offseason workout.
“I think he was frustrated by his season,” Hoyer said. “I would be very surprised if he didn’t show up at Spring Training in great shape, ready to go. I hope we look back on [the 2013 season] four, five years from now as a good learning experience for him and a wakeup call, if you will.”
Castro did play 161 games this year but Hoyer said to do that, a player needs to be “in really unbelievable shape.” The Cubs are banking on Castro, which is why they gave him a seven-year, $60 million contract in 2012.
“I think we felt like there’s no reason he can’t be a little faster and he can’t have more range than he does,” Hoyer said. “He’s at that age — he’s going to be 24 years old [in March]– where he’s going to start to put on a little bit of htat man strength.
“He was a college-age kid when he came up and I think he can start to put on that muscle mass now and maybe that does improve his speed, his range, his power,” Hoyer said. “It’s something he wanted to do and we certainly encouraged it.”
– Carrie Muskat
* One of the first players new Cubs manager Rick Renteria called after he got the job Nov. 7 was to Starlin Castro.
“People ask me about Starlin, and I watched him from the other side and I think, what a tremendously gifted athlete,” Renteria said. “I have to get to know him as a person. I have to figure out what moves him.”
Castro is coming off a season in which he batted a career-low .245, struck out a career-high 129 times, and finished with a sub .400 slugging percentage for the first time (.347).
“He’s willing to do anything we ask him to do,” Renteria said. “I know people talk about him losing focus and having bad at-bats, and I think we have to address those things. Sometimes you don’t have conversations thinking we don’t want to have confrontations or maybe we don’t like the answer we’re going to get, but the reality is you have to have dialogue.”
The emphasis on Renteria’s coaching staff was to find people who could be “teachers” and who can communicate.
“I think it takes a special personality as well as experience and having the technical knowledge,” Theo Epstein said about the coaches. “It takes a certain personality to be able to actually reach the modern player and to dig deep and engage and relate to them and not relate to a player on a perfunctory level but find out what makes him tick and impact him on and off the field in a positive way. That’s what we were looking for.”
(Note: For more on Renteria’s day at Wrigley Field, please see the story on Cubs.com)
* Renteria was formally introduced on Thursday at Wrigley Field. He’ll wear No. 16, which he says was his number in high school.
* Renteria is known for his even-keel demeanor. He was asked if he had a temper.
“I can get hot,” Renteria said Thursday. “I think any competitor can get hot. I think you’ve got to pick your spots. I don’t think players appreciate people just losing it for the sake of losing it.
“Will I do it for the sake of people watching me do it? No,” he said. “You probably won’t see me doing it at all, but I can’t guarantee that. When it happens, it’s got to be the right time, and I think those things have to take care of themselves.
“If you’re a guy who is even-keeled and you end up losing it, I think [the players] understand you mean business and it means a little bit more. For the most part, I think conversations need to be had behind closed doors.”
* The Cubs got encouraging reports about right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery in March 2012. Vizcaino made about six appearances in the Dominican instructional league, his fastball hit 98 mph and he showed good command. The pitcher, acquired from the Braves in July 2012, could be in the Cubs’ bullpen mix in 2014.
* Cubs pitchers and catchers will report Feb. 13 to Mesa, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training.
– Carrie Muskat
Javier Baez, the Cubs’ first-round pick in the June 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is creating a lot of buzz as he gets closer to the big leagues. However, he’s a shortstop, and the Cubs already have a talented shortstop in Starlin Castro. Do the Cubs move Baez? Not now, Theo Epstein said.
“At some point, creating options and creating versatility is a good thing,” Epstein said Thursday. “In Javy’s case, he’s got a tremendous combination of instincts and athleticism which makes us think he’ll be a natural at playing other positions.”
Epstein said amateur scouting reports say Baez could play every position, including catcher.
“I think it’ll be an easy transition for him if and when that time comes,” Epstein said. “He hasn’t even reached Triple-A yet. There’s plenty of time to do it. You don’t want to take shortstop away from a kid. Once you move off shortstop, it’s really hard to move back.
“There may be a time in the future when he moves on a permanent basis, and there may be time when we move just to give him versatility,” he said. “In Spring Training, he’ll play plenty of shortstop and that might be a time to move him around as well.”
Baez, 21, was named the Cubs’ Minor League player of the year after batting .282 with 37 home runs and 111 RBIs at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.
– Carrie Muskat
Rick Renteria got to work right away on Thursday, calling Cubs players to introduce himself.
“I had some responses, and they were extremely positive,” Renteria told MLB Network on Friday. “I’m looking forward to working with all of these guys.
“Hopefully, I’m not the one drawing the attention, and it will be the players,” he said. “If they genuinely believe we believe in them, we have a chance of putting together something special.”
Among the players Renteria spoke to was shortstop Starlin Castro.
“I know a lot has been made about some of the lapses he’s had and his play,” Renteria said in the interview. “This guy is a really good player and he’s a special player.”
Renteria said if he has to be firm with a player, he will be. But he didn’t think that was necessary with Castro.
“It seems like he has a lot of energy,” Renteria said. “He was ready to do whatever it takes. … I think everybody moves more confidently with positive information and positive reinforcement than you do with a heavy hand. That being said, I can bark and bark and bark just like a dog. In the end, players just shut you out. I think you have to build a relationship with players and have them understand when you raise the tone, when things are serious, that it’s for real.”
He recalled a conversation with a priest about raising children, and applies that. The priest said you should always love your children, but you don’t always have to like them.
“I think I take that approach on a daily basis,” Renteria said.
He also learned how to take a calm, but firm approach from Padres manager Buddy Black. Again, the new Cubs manager said he will treat the players like family. Renteria has four children, ranging in ages from 35 to 18. He’s got experience with the youth movement.
Why didn’t Renteria come to Chicago to interview? He had hip replacement surgery on his right hip, and can’t travel yet. The Cubs were expected to hold a press conference later when Renteria can travel.
The Cubs are coming off back to back seasons in which they lost more than 90 games but Renteria is optimistic.
“We feel the players who are coming and the players we have on the Major League roster now are the wave of the future,” Renteria said. “I say the future is now — me personally. Obviously, the ability to go out and get players is going to happen as the club continues to move forward but those are things that will be taken care of down the road. They are very confident in the ability of the players we have now.
“In that vein, I have to take [the front office's] vision, make it my vision and put it forward between the lines,” he said. “We see a club that will go out there hopefully and fight and scratch and claw their way through everything. I might be naive and people think I might be nuts about me believing this club can go out and do certain things but I feel that way and i truly believe it and we’re going to find out. In having some of the conversations I had with some of these kids yesterday, it might be a pretty fun season for us.”
If you look at Renteria’s bio, he was known as “Rich” early in his career. What happened? Renteria said when he came back from an injury, he was with the Marlins, and someone wrote a column about his return. The writer asked Renteria what he was called at home, and he said his family called him “Rickie.” The writer ended the story by saying, “Let’s be ‘Rickie’ people; let’s be like family,” Renteria said.
The next day, he was introduced to pinch-hit for the Marlins, and fans shouted “Rickie.”
“When people would call me ‘Rickie’ from the stands, I knew it was somebody I knew,” Renteria said. “I went to hit that day after the column came out, and as I stood out there warming up, I heard, ‘C’mon, Rickie.’”
He’s been Rick ever since.
– Carrie Muskat
* Anthony Rizzo doubled in his first at-bat in the first to become the first Cubs left-handed hitter to reach 40 doubles since Mark Grace had 41 doubles in 2000. Rizzo finished with 65 extra-base hits this season, the most by a Cubs left-handed hitter since Mark Grace had that many in 1999.
“I’m going to take a lot of positives out of this year,” Rizzo said. “The only thing people are going to ride me on is the average but things could’ve been different there. Things didn’t go my way sometimes but that’s the game of baseball. I’m not happy about that at all but I’m going into the offseason pretty confident I can hit .300 and do all the other things as well.”
Rizzo, who finished with a .233 average in his first full season, and Nate Schierholtz (32 doubles) are the first Cubs left-handed hitting teammates to each reach 30 doubles in the same season since Jacque Jones (32 doubles) and Juan Pierre (31 doubles) in 2006.
In May, Rizzo signed a seven-year, $41 million contract extension. That didn’t affect his hitting.
“One of the goals at the beginning of this year and it was the same last year was to be the starting first baseman for the Cubs,” Rizzo said. “Obviously, now it’ll be for a few more years. Like I said when I signed it, it’s security. I get to play baseball and don’t have to worry about anything else except playing baseball.”
* Shortstop Starlin Castro totaled 666 at-bats, tops in the National League. Baltimore’s Manny Machado led the Majors with 667 at-bats.
* The Cubs finished 25-51 against the NL Central, matching the Astros for the lowest winning percentage by any team in its own division. Chicago went 7-12 against St. Louis, 5-14 against Cincinnati, 6-13 against Milwaukee, and 7-12 against Pittsburgh. It’s the first time they’ve finished with double-digit losses against four teams since 2002.
– Carrie Muskat
Jeff Samardzija closed the season on Sunday, taking the loss in the Cubs’ 4-0 decision to the playoff-bound Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd of 44,808 at Busch Stadium. Whether it was Dale Sveum’s last game as manager won’t be known until Monday, when he meets with Theo Epstein.
“We’ll find out in whatever it is, 12 hours, 15, whatever it is,” Sveum said. “It’s upon us.”
There were a lot of hugs between the players and coaches in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game. With the loss, the Cubs finished last in the National League Central at 66-96, a slight improvement over the 61-101 record in 2012. Epstein has repeatedly said he’s not judging Sveum on the team’s won-loss record.
“There were some positives,” Sveum said of the season, citing Anthony Rizzo’s stats, the emergence of reliever Hector Rondon, the development of catcher Welington Castillo. “It was a tough year all the way around.”
In 2012, Samardzija’s first year as a starter, he was shut down in early September when he’d reached his innings limit. This year, the kid gloves were off. Samardzija struck out four over six innings to finish with 213 2/3 innings, 214 strikeouts, and 19 quality starts out of 33 outings. But the Cubs couldn’t get him a win, and ended the season losing 14 of their last 18 games. He will finish among the top 10 pitchers in the National League in innings and strikeouts.
“I’m satisfied,” Samardzija said of his season. “I had a strong year, felt good, pitched every start, threw a lot of innings, lot of strikeouts. I need to limit the damage in crooked number innings, and once we do that, and cut those down to one instead of three, and cut the walks down, too, I think you’re looking at a different year. I’m still hungry and eager to improve for sure.”
With the win, the Cardinals will host the winner of the Reds vs. Pirates Wild Card Game, and the Braves will play host to the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. The Cubs’ players headed home.
“It’s not about playing six months, it’s about playing that seventh month,” Samardzija said. “Otherwise you’re just out here buying time. I want to win and pitch in October, and that’s it.”
Maybe next year?
“I think in three years — two or three — I think we’ll be competing,” Starlin Castro said. “I feel me and this guy right there [Rizzo], we work together and we’ll be a good team for sure.”
– Carrie Muskat
It was a disappointing season for Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who heads home to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, happy with the way the year finished.
“I tried to finish strong,” Castro said Sunday. “I know it’s a bad year. But what I’m looking for is how I’m feeling right now — I feel like my old [self], I feel pretty good at the plate and that’s how I’m trying to finish so I come back next year with the same intensity.”
The shortstop began this season with a career. 297 average in the big leagues but headed into Sunday’s game batting .246 overall. This month, he’s batting .269, and was hitting .270 in 39 games in the leadoff spot. Castro will work with strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss in the offseason in the Dominican.
“I think next year, I’ll have a strong mind,” Castro said. “It’s bad because it’s a bad year, but I think it’s good because I learned a lot. I never had a bad year, and I think this has been important for me to put my mind strong and grow more.”
Dale Sveum said both Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo learned about themselves and how to deal with slumps and adversity this season. There have been highs and also lows, such as the Aug. 17 game when Sveum benched Castro after the shortstop’s mental gaffe led to a run scoring in a loss to the Cardinals. Does Castro want Sveum back as manager?
“Yeah, why not?” Castro said. “But it’s not my decision. I think he’s OK.”
The Cubs did try to change Castro’s hitting style, but his struggles at the plate resulted in letting the shortstop “be me” as he said. He described his relationship with Sveum as “good, nothing bad.”
“I want to be me,” Castro said. “I know I make errors, I know I make mistakes, and I paid for this, but I want to be like me. I don’t need pressure on myself, just play baseball. That’s what I need. Let me play baseball and I’ll be all right.”
– Carrie Muskat
Gold Glove ballots will be distributed this week. Here’s a look at recent or season-long defensive accomplishments by qualifying Cubs defenders:
* Welington Castillo leads all Major League catchers with a 2.5 defensive WAR (2.5) this season.
* Anthony Rizzo leads all ML first basemen in defensive WAR (0.6) and leads all National League first basemen with an .900 ultimate zone rating. Rizzo ranks second in the league with a .996 fielding percentage this season.
* Darwin Barney leads all National League second basemen in defensive WAR (1.4), and has made only four errors this season, by far the fewest by any everyday second baseman. Barney’s .993 fielding percentage is far and away the best in the National League. He began this season with a 71-game errorless streak and takes an active 41-game errorless streak into tonight’s game.
* Starlin Castro has made four errors in his last 72 games starting June 26. He has an .882 ultimate zone rating during that span, second-best among NL shortstops, and a .988 fielding percentage, also second-best among league shortstops in that span.
* Anthony Rizzo leads all Major League first basemen in defensive war (0.6) and leads all National League first basemen with an .899 ultimate zone rating. Rizzo is second in the league with a .996 fielding percentage this season.
* Darwin Barney leads all Major League second basemen in defensive war (1.4), and has made only four errors this season. His .993 fielding percentage is far and away the best in the NL. Barney began the season with a 71-game errorless streak and takes an active 39-game errorless streak into tonight’s game.
* Starlin Castro has made four errors in his last 70 games starting June 26. He has an .879 ultimate zone rating during that span, second-best among NL shortstops, and a .987 fielding percentage, third-best among league shortstops in that span. However, Castro does rank 10th among NL shortstops with a .971 fielding percentage for the season, and has committed the most errors (18).
The Cubs miss David DeJesus at the top of the lineup. So, looking ahead to next season, who might be the Cubs’ leadoff man? It could be Starlin Castro.
“He could be that guy,” manager Dale Sveum said Thursday. “That’s where he seems to hit the best. Look throughout all of baseball. It’s not the easiest thing to find is a bonafide leadoff guy.”
Castro most likely would have to bat .300 to have the on-base percentage needed to fill that spot.
“The way he’s been hitting lately, I think he’s learned a lot where he could hit at the top of the order,” Sveum said.
This season has been a struggle for Castro, who was began with a career .297 average, but was batting .241 with nine home runs, 30 doubles and 39 RBIs entering Thursday’s game.
“Offensively, he’s had his toughest year,” Sveum said of the shortstop. “The adversity and how to deal with that is another learning experience in the big leagues. The one thing we know about this game is it’s a humbling game and how you get through that is basically it.