Results tagged ‘ Starlin Castro ’

9/30 Theo: Goal in ’15 is to win division

The emphasis in the first three seasons under Theo Epstein has been to restock the Minor League system and build a foundation of impact players. In 2015, Epstein feels the Cubs will take a major step and not just develop players, but be competitive.

“I think we’ve proved we can be very competitive in this division and when you have a chance to compete, you should set your sights high and that means our goal is the [National League] Central title next year,” Epstein said Tuesday.

Here are some highlights from a 40-minute media session at Wrigley Field:

* The Cubs will be looking for impact talent via free agency but Epstein cautioned that any deal has to make sense and they will not “sell out just for 2015.” Among the needs are another starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever, and outfield help. The next 15 months will be key in terms of player acquisitions, he said. That time frame includes this coming offseason, the next Trade Deadline, and next offseason.

* They are aware that some of the young talent still needs time, such as Javier Baez, who batted .169 with 95 strikeouts in 52 games after he was called up Aug. 5. Baez is expected to be the Cubs’ Opening Day second baseman, Epstein said. He’s a perfect example of the theme Epstein projected for 2015.

“We’re being open about the fact that we’re here to compete and our goal is to win the [division] title, but at the same time we’re not going to bail on our young players, we’re not going to abandon our vision,” he said. “We just have to make the tough decisions and strike that balance the right way.”

* Epstein admitted Renteria had some limitations with the roster, such as relievers who were restricted because of past injuries and youngsters without much experience. But the manager did fulfill many of the criteria laid out for him, such as developing a positive attitude, setting a good tone for the players and getting them to play hard.

“He established an environment where our young players could continue to grow and feel support, and where they could learn how to be big leaguers, and where they could learn how to win,” Epstein said.

* Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm will stay in the bullpen for 2015, and not be considered for the rotation.

* The Cubs have not made as much improvement in terms of on-base percentage as Epstein would like.

“Frankly, it’s one of the areas where we haven’t had a lot of success,” he said.

* Epstein’s feelings on the Cardinals? He says: “How do you balance admiration and contempt? I’m a Cub, so I have to hate the Cardinals, but I also admire the way they run their baseball shop. They’re really consistent, they make good decisions, all the way back to George Kissell. They teach the game the right way, they stay true to the vision of how to play Cardinal baseball. In some respects, and I hate to say this on the record, but we have to do a lot of things that they do to be successful. On the other hand, I think we’re building something that has a chance to go toe to toe with them and surpass them. I think we have a chance to win this division and win it on a consistent basis, and we’re going to need to beat them to win the World Series.”

He feels the NL Central is becoming a powerhouse. When Epstein first joined the Cubs in October 2011, he thought the NL Central would be a little easier than the AL East.

“I was dead wrong,” Epstein said. “If you look forward over the next five years, or so, I think this has a chance to be the most competitive and best division in baseball. When you have the talent to compete you should set your sights high.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/30 The Year in Quotes

CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney compiled a “Year in Cubs Quotes,” which summed up some of the highs and lows of the 2014 season. Here are excerpts:

* “It’s as peaceful as I’ve ever been as a person.” — Rick Renteria, the 53rd manager in franchise history, at the opening of spring training, Feb. 13.

* “You guys are going to crown them the next Babe Ruth.” — first baseman Anthony Rizzo, responding to reporters asking about all the prospects, Feb. 18.

* “Just be myself. Be me. My mind’s clean and ready to play hard.” — shortstop Starlin Castro, promising to return to an All-Star level, Feb. 19.

* “It sucks for the person who parked there. They’re parking too close to the field.” — mega-prospect Javier Baez, after shattering a car window with a batting-practice bomb at Cubs Park, Feb. 21.

* “(Baez) doesn’t care. He’s like: ‘Oh, cool.’ Not cool for whoever’s car it was, I guess.” — eyewitness Logan Watkins, Feb. 21.

* “Losing sucks.” — Theo Epstein, after a reporter asked if winning is “overemphasized” in professional sports, April 22.

* “I was pretty hungry for that one.” — Jeff Samardzija, after allowing one unearned run in nine innings and throwing 126 pitches during a 12-inning loss to the White Sox, May 5.

* “I do believe in second chances. I do believe in redemption. I do believe that Manny has turned his life around for the better in the last couple of years.” — Epstein, stunning the baseball world by signing Manny Ramirez to a minor-league deal as a player/coach for Triple-A Iowa, May 25.

* “I got some goose bumps there. That’s kind of why you play this game, for moments like that.” — Jake Arrieta, after being four outs away from a no-hitter against the Red Sox and getting a standing ovation at Fenway Park, June 30.

* “We shared a beer and a cigarette and sent him on his way. It’s just tough to see your boys leave.” — James Russell’s farewell to Samardzija, July 5.

* “We certainly hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the trade deadline.” — Epstein, July 5.

* “I got beer. I got chocolate milk. I got hair gel. I got shampoo. I got body wash. And then I got some more beer. It was great. Best shower I’ve ever taken.” — catcher John Baker, after pitching the 16th inning and scoring the game-winning run to beat the Rockies in the longest game in franchise history, July 29-30.

* “I was like: ‘Are you serious?’ And then I realized I was really going to the big leagues. I got really excited. I called my mom, told my brother and everybody started jumping around and crying.” — Javier Baez, before debuting at Coors Field and hitting the game-winning homer against the Rockies, Aug. 5.

* “The best thing to happen to the whole city of Chicago this summer — certainly from a baseball standpoint — was put together by 13-, 12-year-old kids from the South Side. At industry meetings, in lots of front offices around the game, people talk about (it). People ask the question: How can we get young kids playing baseball again, especially in cities, especially in the inner-city? There’s nothing that a bunch of suits in a boardroom can do that would be as powerful as what those 12-year-old kids did to demonstrate how compelling the game of baseball can be, make baseball cool again for young kids.” — Epstein, on the Jackie Robinson West team that won a national title at the Little League World Series, Aug. 27.

* “We’re just waiting for Bryant now.” — Baez, after Jorge Soler hit two homers to beat the Cardinals in St. Louis, Aug. 29.

* “To be the NL Central champs … that’s the message we’re going to send.” — Rizzo’s expectations for next year’s team, Sept. 28.

9/27 Starlin Castro update

It’s been a frustrating final month of the season for Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who will head home to the Dominican Republic after Sunday but plans to continue his rehab at the team’s facility in Mesa, Ariz. Castro, who injured his left ankle on Sept. 2 when he slid awkwardly into home plate, was examined Saturday by team orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo at Miller Park. All the shortstop has been able to do is rehab and watch.

“It’s big time frustrating,” Castro said Saturday. “It’s tough for me because I worked really hard to come back for one game or two. It’s not going to happen but I’m not going to get frustrated. It’s a really important season next year and I’m going to be healthy.”

If there was some way he could get on the field for one more play, he would, but Castro is still wearing a supportive boot on his left foot.

The 2014 season was Castro’s fifth in the big leagues, and he finished as the top hitting shortstop in the National League (.290) ahead of the Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez. This is the first time in the last four seasons that Castro will not lead the NL in errors. He made 15 in 133 games for a .973 fielding percentage, the highest in his young career.

“I think he’s grown up,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “I think he took a lot upon himself. As the season progressed, he was more accountable to himself and to his teammates. I think he worked very, very hard to overcome a lot of real and or perceived deficits in this game. He also became, as far as I could tell, a much better teammate. I think everybody started to gravitate to him. I think it’s been a positive season for him.”

Castro will spend time this offseason with Cubs strength coach Tim Buss to prepare for the season.

“I’ll just try to be healthy,” Castro said. “That’s a really important goal for me. I’ll try to do my full Spring Training without injuries. I’m prepared for that. When that happens, it’ll be better season.”

He sees a bright future for the Cubs. Castro has had plenty of time to watch young players like Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara.

“We see a lot of good things here,” Castro said. “Those kids, those young guys, we have good communication. We’ll show next year that we can fight, we can fight with whatever. We can play baseball to win. I think we’re pretty close.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/26 Cubs players on Jeter

I asked three Cubs players for one word to describe Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and say why they picked that word.

Carlos Villanueva:
Respect.

“In 2011, I faced him in New York. We went back to Toronto, and to go to the clubhouse there, you have to go past the hitting cage. It just so happened he was walking in the same time I was coming in. I was starstruck — it’s Jeter. The guy just spoke to me like one of his peers. He remembered that I punched him out in the first at-bat — I think I threw a 3-2 changeup. He kind of smiled; I guess he was surprised. He mentioned it, he said, ‘Man, that was a good pitch you threw me that first at-bat of the game.’ I’ve played with a lot of superstars and some of their egos are a little up there more than you would want them to be, but this guy was so much about what you want the game to be. I don’t think I have as much respect for any opposing hitter than I have for him. A guy who conducts himself the way he does, the way he has for so many years in such a difficult city to play in, it’s an example I wish every player could see and follow. It doesn’t compare when everybody says it, but the respect, even not knowing him and seeing how he conducts his business, no showmanship, none of that stuff. Just winning and doing things the way you’re supposed to, and spend time enjoying the game. It’s something I don’t think we’ll see as good as he’s done it for such a long time. He respects the game.”

Starlin Castro:
Respect.

“He’s one of the greatest players who I’ve watched since I was a little kid. It’s how he plays baseball, how he controls the situation on the biggest stage with the Yankees. Not everybody can take that big responsibility to be a captain on the biggest team like that. It’s also how he plays the game, how his teammates respect him. Not everybody can do that. We won’t see that for a long time, everybody doesn’t have that kind of respect. In the world, we have a lot of Hall of Famers and great players, but to be captain on one team like the Yankees, not everybody can do it. Respect. That’s the most important thing. Everybody who plays on the Yankees, everybody respects him, everybody does what he says in a good way. He’s awesome. Everybody pays attention to him, and everybody listens to him because they respect him, and not only the players but the coaches, everybody.”

John Baker:
No. 2

“I think about No. 2, and the reason I think about No. 2 is because it’s the perfectly appropriate number for Derek Jeter because I think he’s the best player of all time. He’s gone through the steroid generation and never been in trouble and stayed relevant as baseball has improved. At the same time, he always takes a back seat to his team. No. 2 for me is the perfect number for Derek Jeter because he’s the best player who doesn’t want everyone to see him as the best player and it makes him the best teammate. No. 1 would be inappropriate because it would be selfish. No. 2 is perfect.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/12 Castro, Rizzo making progress

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was allowed to walk without a supportive walking boot on his left ankle Friday, and predicts he’ll be back before the season ends. Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo continued to make progress in his rehab from a lower back strain, and was able to run the bases for the first time on Friday.

Castro, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Sept. 2 in an awkward slide at home, said it’s important for him to get some at-bats in the final two weeks.

“This is a great season for me,” said Castro, who was batting .292. “I think I can improve more than what I’ve done. I want to be healthy, I don’t want to go into the offseason not playing. I want to play — if it’s three games, I’ll play three games.”

Rizzo has not played since he left the Aug. 26 game in Cincinnati when his back tightened up. Manager Rick Renteria said the first baseman most likely will not return until Monday when the team returns home to face the Reds.

“Obviously, we’re taking it very slow,” Rizzo said Friday. “We want it to be 100 percent going forward. We don’t want any setbacks.”

Rizzo did take batting practice for the second day, but running was a new part of his rehab.

“It was nice to throw cleats on and sweat like that,” he said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/3 Castro likely done for the season

Starlin Castro has a high ankle sprain, and is most likely done for the season. GM Jed Hoyer said the prognosis is four weeks.

“We’re not going to shut him down,” Hoyer said. “He’s going to work hard to come back. His mentality is he’s going to beat four weeks and come back. … Our assumption is it’s season ending.”

Castro was injured in the first inning Tuesday when he made an awkward slide into home plate. He limped off the field, and tried to convince manager Rick Renteria to let him keep playing. Instead, Castro had an MRI and X-rays, which showed no fracture or ligament damage.

– Carrie Muskat

9/2 Cubs 7, Brewers 1

* Arismendy Alcantara extended his Wrigley Field hitting streak to six games with a fifth-inning, two-run homer. He’s hit five home runs in his last 10 games, after hitting three in his first 40 contests.

* Luis Valbuena has driven in a run in three straight games, and has hit safely in eight of his last nine games.

* With a run-scoring single to left field in the first inning, JORGE SOLER has recorded at least one RBI in five of his first six big league games. He’s hit safely in all six games (.500/11-for-22) since his promotion Aug. 27.

* Jake Arrieta picked up his eighth win of the season, giving up one run on five hits while walking two and striking out four over six innings. He has given up one or no earned runs in 13 of his 22 starts, and is 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA (13 ER/64 IP) in 10 starts at Wrigley Field this year.

* Before he left the game with a left ankle sprain, Starlin Castro extended his hitting streak to nine games (.406/13-for-32) with a first-inning single to left field. He has hit safely in 25 of his last 27 games dating to Aug. 1, going 40-for-103 (.388) during the stretch.

* Rafael Lopez (0-for-1) made his Major League debut, grounding out to first base in the eighth inning.

9/2 Starlin Castro – UPDATE

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro had to leave Tuesday’s game with a left ankle sprain suffered in an awkward slide at home plate in the first inning. Castro had singled with one out and one on in the first and was on second base when Jorge Soler singled to left against the Brewers and Yovani Gallardo. As he slid into home, his left ankle bent awkwardly underneath him. He was able to walk off the field under his own power but was obviously limping. Initial tests showed no fracture. Castro was still being evaluated.

– Carrie Muskat

8/28 Finding a happy medium

On Wednesday, Starlin Castro failed to run hard after hitting a ball to center, and it may have proved costly in a loss to the Reds. On Friday, Castro doubled with one out in the sixth, tried to stretch his hit, and was thrown out at third. The Cubs are working on finding a happy medium.

“Here’s a guy who everybody gets on because he doesn’t run out of the box,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s been hustling, he runs out of the box hard, gets to second base, and in that instance, he did everything I wanted him to do except now you have to make sure you see the ball in front of you.

“I said, ‘It’s OK in this instance to stay there,'” Renteria said. “I’ll take that and take being able to explain to him how to approach it better than him not getting over there. I think he showed everybody he’s willing to go ahead and do the things he’s supposed to. We have to do it consistently over a long period of time. At least he showed me something by trying to get over there and trying to make something happen.”

The Cubs are counting on players like Castro and Anthony Rizzo to be examples for the rookies, who aren’t much younger than the pair. General manager Jed Hoyer said he liked how Renteria handled Castro.

“First of all, I’d say, I’m really glad Starlin right away went and apologized to everyone,” Hoyer said. “He knew he messed up. I think it’s the wrong time right now, and Ricky knows this — [Castro] is going through a lot. He knows he made a mistake, he apologized to everyone. It’s not something you need to harp on.”

Hoyer complimented Castro’s play this season, saying he’s eliminated a lot of the mental mistakes.

“In some ways we’re asking a lot of those guys — we need those guys to show [the rookies] how to play,” Hoyer said of Castro and Rizzo.

– Carrie Muskat

8/27 Reds 7, Cubs 5

* In his first career start with the Cubs, Jacob Turner gave up six runs over 3 2/3 innings. He was on a pitch count limit because he had not started since Aug. 3.

“I would’ve liked to have gotten a little deeper in the game,” Turner said. “That part is definitely frustrating. At the same time, you’ve got to build the pitch count up, too.”

* Jorge Soler made a good first impression, hitting a solo homer in his first Major League at-bat, and adding a RBI single in the eighth. He finished 2-for-4.

“I’m real, real happy about it,” said Soler, who admitted to being a little nervous. “First time in the big leagues, first at-bat. I was very excited and happy about that.”

He’s the first Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat since Starlin Castro did so at Great American Ball Park on May 7, 2010.

* Castro made one of three errors by the Cubs in the game. In the eighth, the Cubs tallied against Jonathan Broxton on a two-run double by Javier Baez. Castro then smacked a long hit off the center-field wall, but only made it to first base while sending Baez to third. It may have proved costly as Soler then drove in Baez from third on a single before Welington Castillo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

“He feels bad,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Castro, who returned from the bereavement list on Tuesday. “He knows. He’s apologizing to everybody about not getting over there. He’s got a lot of things on his mind, and he’s out there doing the best he can.

“When a young man tells you he’s made a mistake, it’s very hard to do anything other than accept it,” Renteria said. “Quite frankly, there were a host of things prior to that and part of that whole ballgame that put us in the position we were in.”

Baez nearly made up for the mistake with two outs and two on in the ninth when he flew out to deep center.

“It sounded good,” Renteria said.

“I had to take a couple of steps back and I got a little scared; it sounded so loud and it was really high, but, the ball jumps off his bat no matter where he hits it to,” Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton said. “I was just talking to [someone] about how his foul balls go up in the third deck every time he hits a foul ball off to the right. The guy has some power. And he had power coming in at him; all he had to do was touch it a little bit. But we got the win and we did a good job.”

* The Cubs have homered in 11 straight games for the first time since Sept. 8-17, 2007.

– Carrie Muskat

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