Results tagged ‘ Starlin Castro ’
A year ago, Starlin Castro was preparing for his second All-Star Game. On Friday, he was focused on his swing. Castro hit a solo home run in the eighth, but it wasn’t enough as Carlos Beltran smacked an RBI triple and scored on Allen Craig’s single in the first inning to help Joe Kelly pick up his first win of the season in the Cardinals’ 3-2 triumph over the Cubs in front of 37,322 at Wrigley Field.
This was a battle of two swingmen, Kelly and Carlos Villanueva. The Cubs starter did his job, lasting six innings and keeping it close, but Villanueva still took the loss in his 10th start and 26th outing. The right-hander began the year in the rotation, then shifted to the bullpen when Matt Garza returned from the disabled list, and was making his second start since shifting back to starting after Scott Feldman was traded.
“I just couldn’t put those guys away,” Villanueva said. “We did exactly what we wanted to do but didn’t execute the pitches. It just comes down to that. I have to give a lot of credit to [catcher Welington] Castillo. We’ve been working real hard and talking about our game plan and communicating better. Our last two games, we’ve done a good job and doing exactly what we want.”
St. Louis struck quickly as Matt Carpenter singled to lead off the game and scored one out later on Beltran’s triple to right, the first of three hits by the outfielder. Craig followed with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
Alfonso Soriano hit a RBI dinble in the third but with two outs in the Cardinals’ seventh, pinch-hitter Rob Johnson tripled to right past a diving Nate Schierholtz — who probably shouldn’t have dove — and then scored on Carpenter’s double into the gap in left center.
Castro saw the ball fine in the eighth when he led off against Kevin Siegrist with his sixth home run to close the deficit to 3-2. In his last 16 games since June 26, Castro was batting .299. On June 23, he was batting .228, and Sveum decided to sit the shortstop.
“I feel aggressive and feel like I trust myself and good things will be happening,” Castro said. “You just let your talent do its job and keep working. It’s frustrating sometimes because you’re working hard and the things that are supposed to happen don’t happen. It’s hard.”
The Cubs now are 11-20 in one-run decisions, and 4-9 at Wrigley Field in those games. Castro’s homer was the 100th by the team; last year, they did not hit No. 100 until Aug. 16.
– Carrie Muskat
* Alfonso Soriano will likely have one more game as the designated hitter on Monday when the Cubs finish their crosstown Interleague series against the White Sox with a makeup game at U.S. Cellular Field. Soriano was batting .353 with three doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.235 OPS in his last eight games since June 28. He pickedu up his 32nd career multi-homer game on Saturday, which is tied for eighth-most in baseball with Manny Ramirez and Andruw Jones. Jim Thome is seventh on the list with 33 multi-homer efforts.
“The one thing you notice is he’s hitting the fastball,” Dale Sveum said of Soriano. “When you have the confidence when you’re hitting fastballs and you lay off hitting breaking balls, or whatever it might be, and the bat speed is there, and you feel that good, you start doing a lot of good things because you’re laying off a lot of bad pitches.”
Soriano, 37, is 8-for-17 (.471) in four games this year as the designated hitter with two home runs and six RBIs. He has a career .379 average in 26 games as the DH.
* Starlin Castro has scuffled this season at the plate, including a .167 June, and Sveum said they’ve shown their support by letting the shortstop play.
“Part of it is putting him in the lineup every day, that’s the confidence you have in guys like that,” Sveum said Sunday. “Just put him in there, and it’s up to him to come out of it and start swinging the bat and start playing better.”
Castro began this season with a career .297 average in the big leagues. A two-time All-Star, he entered Sunday’s game batting .234.
“I haven’t seen him hanging his head or losing his confidence,” Sveum said.
* Third baseman Luis Valbuena has played better than his stats.
“On a whole, from last year to this year, he’s been so consistent, even though you’re not seeing a .300 batting average,” Sveum said of Valbuena, who was batting .247. “The on-base percentage and the walks seem to always be there on a consistent basis and the defense he’s played has been as good as anybody at third base.”
* Javier Baez, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, made quite an impression in his Double-A Tennessee debut Saturday, hitting a home run in his first at-bat on his first swing.
“It’s always nice for anybody to go to another league and your first swing is a home run,” Sveum said. “This guy still has to develop. It’s not just home runs we’re talking about, it’s getting ready and getting completely developed to play at this level.”
Baez led the Florida State League with 17 home runs while at Class A Daytona before he was promoted.
Meanwhile, Albert Almora, the Cubs’ 2012 top Draft pick had to leave Saturday’s game with Class A Kane County because of hemorrhoids. Almora was listed as day to day.
– Carrie Muskat
Travis Wood picked up his 16th quality start, but once again, he had nothing to show for it. The Athletics tallied on a passed ball charged to catcher Welington Castillo in the seventh inning to post a 1-0 victory Thursday over the Cubs, who mustered two hits in the game.
Matt Guerrier, who joined the Cubs on Wednesday from the Dodgers for Carlos Marmol, took over in the seventh from Wood and walked Derek Norris with two outs. Norris reached third on Seth Smith’s single and then scored on passed ball by Castillo, who was catching Guerrier for the first time.
“[Guerrier] made a good pitch and I think I just didn’t read it very good and it went through my legs,” Castillo said. “I’m not going to make an excuse. He made a really good pitch and I didn’t get a read.”
Wood held the A’s to three hits, and now is 0-3 with a 2.58 ERA in his last six starts.
“You just have to keep battling,” Wood said.
“He’s been our All-Star, no question about it,” Dale Sveum said of Wood. “He’s had some very unfortunate incidents and his earned run average would be quite a bit better than it is without some unfortunate, strange occurrences.”
Such as game-winning runs scoring on passed balls. On Sunday, Wood sounded frustrated that he hadn’t done more.
“I’ve got to figure out how to win the ballgames,” he said. “I’ve been able to keep them off balance and not score, but I have to help our team pull through and win the games.”
One thing the Cubs did learn in their first series in Oakland is not to run on left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Starlin Castro was at second with one out in the fourth and tried to score on Alfonso Soriano’s single, but Cespedes threw him out at home.
“I thought he was [going to score],” Sveum said. “It seemed like a no brainer right off the bat. I don’t know what happened there.”
“It surprised me,” Castro said. “I ran hard right away. When I saw the ball hit, I went right away to home plate and he made a good throw.”
Castro had never seen Cespedes in the outfield.
“The guy made a great throw,” Castro said. “I thought I’d score easy. I never stopped, I never said to myself, ‘I’m out.’ I ran hard right away to second base. I was surprised I was out.”
Oakland starter Dan Straily, promoted from Triple-A Sacramento for the start, combined with Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour on a two-hitter.
Despite the loss, the Cubs finished with a winning road trip (5-4) and will have a winning record in Interleague Play (11-6) for the first time since 2007. At least they proved they could win west of the Mississippi River. Last season, the Cubs were 1-18 on the road against National League West teams, picking up their only win in the last game.
– Carrie Muskat
* With Scott Feldman gone via trade, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Carlos Villanueva will be stretched out to get back in the rotation. Feldman was scheduled to start on Tuesday but lefty Chris Rusin was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take his spot. Villanueva began the season in the rotation and made eight starts before he was moved to the bullpen to make room for Matt Garza. Villanueva was 1-3 with a 3.93 ERA in eight starts, and has a 2.40 ERA in 15 relief appearances. Villanueva will need time to get stretched out, and most likely won’t be ready to start until mid July, Sveum said. Feldman, by the way, will make his first start for the Orioles on Wednesday against the White Sox.
* GM Jed Hoyer was asked about whether the trades on Tuesday tell the players the season is over.
“Unfortunately, we’re 10 games under .500 at this stage in the season,” Hoyer said. “We have three teams in our division with the three best records in the National League, or close to it. I think realistically, our chances of playing in October are small. We need to add a lot of talent to get better for the future. Players should be trying to win every single game, that’s the nature of their job. I would expect the players to look at it that way.”
Is Sveum worried about a change in attitude?
“I’m not concerned about that,” Sveum said. “We’re still viable and able to fill those roles now. If you start getting more thinner, then things change. I’m not worried — they’re professional players and they have to go out and perform.”
* Starlin Castro batted .167 in June, the worst month of his young career. The shortstop has gotten into some bad habits, Sveum said.
“He’s just got to slow things down and get in a better position to hit like he did when he first got here,” Sveum said.
* Rusin was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team on Tuesday. The game will be played July 17 in Reno. The lefty compiled a 7-7 record and 3.27 ERA in 17 games (16 starts), and leads the PCL in innings pitched.
– Carrie Muskat
* Since his one-day “breather,” Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is 4-for-10, which is encouraging. Has manager Dale Sveum seen changes since Tuesday’s day off, Castro’s first of the year?
“Maybe a little attitude change,” Sveum said Friday. “I think the mechanics of his swing are probably the same. He’s mixed in some hits which are nice. That’s usually what gets you going sometimes.
“He’s still struggling a little bit with the fastball,” Sveum said of Castro, who was batting .234 overall. “The mechanics are the same. Hopefully, he keeps gradually understanding what he has to do.”
* Alfonso Soriano was the designated hitter for Friday’s Interleague game, and will likely handle that role in the Cubs’ six-game West Coast swing against the Mariners and Athletics. That means Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic will be getting the action in the outfield for the Cubs. The Cubs will have to figure out how to get everyone at-bats when David DeJesus returns from a sprained right shoulder. DeJesus was in Chicago, continuing his rehab.
“A couple of them might be part of our future, left-hand hitters who are better athletes, two-way players,” manager Dale Sveum said of Sweeney and Bogusevic. “We’ll work it out to figure out the playing time.”
Sveum will talk to Soriano about playing time if there’s a significant change for the 37-year-old outfielder.
“You’re not going to just do something like that to a guy who’s had that kind of career,” Sveum said. “I’ll have to figure out how to get these guys their at-bats with matchups, or whoever’s the hottest. A lot of times those things work themselves out.”
* Dioner Navarro has caught Matt Garza’s last three starts, and the right-hander has given up two earned runs in those games, but Navarro isn’t the pitcher’s personal catcher.
“It’s just how it all works out sometimes,” Sveum said Friday. “[Welington Castillo] has caught them all and everybody has had really good games. If you have that kind of fastball command — [on Thursday], Garza had his slider and his command. When you have that kind of outing, it doesn’t matter what’s going on behind the plate.”
Castillo is the Cubs’ regular catcher, and has started 57 games compared to Navarro’s 21.
* Scott Baker, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery one year ago, will throw his second simulated game on Saturday in Mesa, Ariz. His first outing was 20 pitches, and went well.
“Everything went good and the velocity was up there,” Sveum said of Baker. “We hope he keeps going in the right direction.”
The right-hander could be pitching for the Cubs by late August.
“He’s basically starting his Spring Training right now,” Sveum said. “The first day pitchers throw live, it’s basically like that [for Baker].”
* Steve Clevenger, sidelined since April 14 with a left oblique strain, was activated from the 60-day disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Iowa. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Zach Putnam (bone spur) was transferred to the 60-day DL.
– Carrie Muskat
* Alfonso Soriano will play all six games on the Cubs’ West Coast Interleague trip to Seattle and Oakland, most likely as the DH.
“I like it, especially in a stadium when I can have a batting cage behind the clubhouse and the dugout, that’s good,” Soriano said Thursday. “Between innings, I can work on my swing and be ready with my at-bats.”
Soriano did not start Thursday against the Brewers, getting a second straight day off. The veteran outfielder was batting .245 overall, and .191 in 22 games in June with one home run and seven doubles.
“At my age, now I’m 37, I just hit for one week, it’s good,” Soriano said. “[Being the DH] the whole season, that’s totally different. But for six games, it’s not bad.”
* Starlin Castro was 2-for-5 on Wednesday in his first game back after a one-day breather, and could’ve had a third hit if Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez wasn’t hugging the line.
“Hopefully, that kind of game propels you moving forward and he can be the kid we all know he is,” manager Dale Sveum said of Castro.
* Reliever Blake Parker is experimenting with a new split change pitch.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Parker said. “I like it as a third pitch.”
Something’s working for the right-hander, who has thrown scoreless relief in seven of eight appearances.
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro was back in the Cubs lineup Wednesday, and ready to begin what he’s considering to be a new season. Castro, who sat Tuesday for the first time since Aug. 22, 2011, ending a streak of 269 consecutive games played, was batting .228, which prompted the day off.
“Hopefully, he had the opportunity to kick back and enjoy the day,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Hopefully, he gets back to the player he is.”
“I know I can hit,” Castro said. “I just have to go out there and do the best I can and play hard every day.”
Sveum’s message to the two-time All-Star shortstop: Don’t try to get four hits every at-bat.
“He told me, ‘Be you. I know you can hit. Be the Starlin Castro you always are. Don’t try to do too much, don’t try to hit .300 in one at-bat. That’s not going to happen,’” Castro said. “That’s the situation I’m in right now. It happens to every player. He doesn’t care who you are — it happens to everybody. I’m going to finish my year good.”
So, a new season starts Wednesday?
“Believe it,” Castro said.
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro is back, and Alfonso Soriano is getting a breather on Wednesday in Game 2 of the Cubs’ three-game series against the Brewers. Here’s the lineup:
Dale Sveum decided it was time to give Starlin Castro a breather, and the shortstop did not start in Tuesday’s game against the Brewers. It was his first day off this year, and first day off since Aug. 22, 2011. Castro was batting .228 for the season, and .131 in June.
“I think sometimes you end up looking in somebody’s eyes to see when [the time is right],” said Sveum, who has been considering the move for a few weeks. “I don’t like to give any core players a day off at home. … When people pay a lot of money to see their favorite player, you don’t want to do that at home.”
The Cubs had Monday off, and Tuesday was the start of a three-city, nine-game swing.
Sveum said he felt Castro needed a mental break.
“I told him to think about tomorrow as a whole [new] season and not try to hit .300 tomorrow,” Sveum said. “It’s not going to happen. You can’t get four hits every at-bat and think you’re going to get your average back up there. There’s plenty of time left in the season to hit .330 and you can finish at .290 or .300.
“I told him you’re not the first really, really good hitter to be in these kind of slumps,” he said. “It’s part of everyone’s career.”
– Carrie Muskat
There’s been a lot of talk about Starlin Castro’s hitting mechanics. On Sunday, the Cubs shortstop was on the field working on his defense. Castro committed his 12th error on Saturday, the most in the Major Leagues. He, infield coach David Bell, bench coach Jamie Quirk and coach Mike Borzello joined Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney on the field before batting practice.
“There’s a lot of things in his defense that need to get better,” Dale Sveum said. “Today was working on his backhand, and trying to get more stable and have a base when you throw the ball and not be so off balance and understand the different things you have to have in your tool box with your backhand. … It was some things we have to get cleaned up.”
This hasn’t been a good year offensive for Castro, a two-time All-Star, who was batting .231. He began the year with a .297 career average in three seasons. Sveum didn’t see the 23-year-old infielder fretting too much.
“These are things everybody goes through and part of the adversity everybody goes through,” Sveum said. “Some guys have peaks and valleys. You’re going to go through this at some point in your career.”
This is the longest skid in Castro’s young career.
“People can go 25, 30, 35 years without any adversity in their life,” Sveum said. “You see what kind of man you are when you have to deal with adversity. Everybody has to go through it in life. Nobody said life was easy.”
– Carrie Muskat