Tag:Starlin Castro
Posted on: April 8, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: April 8, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Starlin Castro emerging as star

By Evan Brunell

CastroIt took 22 at-bats before Starlin Castro swung and missed at a pitch this season, only accentuating the special talent the Cubs have on their hands.

"There's no doubt he's a special talent. No doubt," Cubs' batting coach Rudy Jaramillo told the Chicago Tribune of the 21-year-old who is entering his first full season of many to come as Cubs starting shortstop. Castro posted a .300 batting average in 506 trips to the plate last season, also adding on a .347 OBP and .408 slugging percentage. That's scary from a 20-year-old who is expected to fill into his body and add some more power.

"He's the next Ichiro," a friend had proclaimed to this author recently. It sounds like Jaramillo might concur when talking about such lofty expectations.

"One thing that's really big is he has that 'feel' for such a young kid," Jaramillo said. "He takes me through his at-bats, pitch-to-pitch, and he can remember every pitch and every at-bat.

"He's a smart kid. That's a special knack. Those are things you don't get taught. Those are things you 'have' because of ability."

So far on the year, Castro leads the team in batting average, is tied for first in OBP and second in slugging percentage for an overall line of .400/.444/.1.084 in 27 plate appearances. Obviously those numbers won't last, but how many 21-year-olds have a six-game stretch with those kind of numbers?

Ones that eventually end up in All-Star Games, that's for sure.

That doesn't mean Castro's suddenly the best shortstop in the game. Aside from extremely stiff competition in Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, Castro's defense leaves much to be desired and he may eventually be moved off the position once he fills out more.

"We talked last year about this a lot," former Cubs coach Alan Trammell, now in Arizona, said. "He knows he can hit, he really believes that like all good hitters do. But I told him, 'You have to be a shortstop first.'

"He understands that. But you have to remember he just turned 21. He's a good student and he wants to do well. He's going to do well. But there still are going to be some growing pains."

That said, Trammell believes if Castro can stay focused each pitch and not lapse, he could be a Gold Glover. Of course, that isn't saying much because the Gold Glove voting these days is a joke, but the point remains.

Jaramillo, obviously, is more focused on Castro's emergence as a hitter than fielder.

"I just want him to learn to be a big league hitter," he said. "He's going to have power, but I don't want him to get ahead of himself. I tell him the power will come, because he wants to hit with power now and that's where he gets in trouble.

"He has a gift and you have take advantage of it."

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Category: MLB
Posted on: April 4, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Defense costing teams early

Aubrey Huff

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Sunday afternoon the sight of Aubrey Huff diving in right field was a joking matter. The night before he made a diving catch and then before batting practice his teammates put a faux-chalk outline of his dive in the Dodger Stadium grass.

A couple of hours later, it wasn't so funny.

In the first inning on Sunday, Huff dove on a Jamey Carroll liner which ended up a triple and helped the Dodgers score three in the inning. In the seventh inning, Huff also lost a ball over his head by Marcus Thames, good for another triple and driving in the go-ahead run.

One scout told CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler that the Giants defense is "going to be an issue."

The Giants made their decision leaving camp that their defense would be secondary to scoring runs, as the team kept rookie first baseman Brandon Belt on the roster -- and it's not Belt that's the problem, he's a good defender. It's that in order to keep Huff and Belt in the lineup, Huff went to right field. And as right fielder's go, he's showing he's a first baseman.

I don't actually fault Huff, he's going out there and giving it his best and doing what the team asks him to do -- ultimately, it's just a flawed strategy putting Huff in the outfield. When Cody Ross is ready to come off the disabled list -- which is still at least two weeks away -- the Giants will be better at that spot, but they'll also have a decision between Belt and Huff -- or benching Pat Burrell and keeping Huff in the outfield. That said, the Giants will still have Miguel Tejada at shortstop.

But it's not just the Giants that are struggling defensively.

RangersThe Giants' World Series opponents last fall started off their season with a fielding error on the first batter of the season when Julio Borbon ran into Nelson Cruz.

The Cardinals seemed to be one team unconcerned about defense this offseason and could be concerned as the season goes along. The team added 35-year-old Lance Berkman, who hadn't played in the outfield since since 2007, to play every day in right field and got rid of one of baseball's best defensive shortstops, Brendan Ryan, and replaced him with an average second baseman in Ryan Theriot.

Theriot is the only National League player with two errors through Sunday's game, while in the American League one notoriously bad fielder (Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion) and one remarkably good fielder (Oakland's Daric Barton) have three errors each. 

There have been 68 errors this season through 46 games (following Sunday's games). That's only one more error than there was through 46 games last season (and 15 more than there was through 46 games in 2009).

That said, we all know errors aren't the best way to measure defense, there are plenty of examples of bad defense that didn't include an error in the boxscore.

On Sunday, the Cubs' defense let down closer Carlos Marmol. With one out and runners at second and third, Pedro Alvarez hit a dribbler to shortstop Starlin Castro who unloaded a bad throw to first, allowing two runs to score and the Pirates to get the win.

Milwaukee's Casey McGehee has had two costly decisions in the team's sweep at the hands of the Reds. In the ninth inning of Thursday's opener, McGehee failed to tag Brandon Phillips going to third, setting up the Reds' walk-off victory. On Sunday, McGehee went home and failed to get an out on a Drew Stubbs chopper, which led to a game-turned three-run homer by Phillips in the fourth. And that's two entire instances of the Brewers' bad defense without mentioning Yuniesky Betancourt, who the team had to take to get Zack Greinke, but didn't have to make their everyday shortstop. According to John Dewan's +/- system, no defensive player in baseball has cost their team more runs over the last three seasons than Betancourt's -66.

David Pinto over at Baseball Musings noted BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over the first weekend was .300, while it was .291 last season. That stat tells you a ball in the field was more likely to be fielded a year ago than it was this weekend.

Now, we're just 47 games into the 2011 season, so it's way too early to make any real conclusions about errors and defense as a whole, but it is something to watch. 

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Posted on: March 12, 2011 9:19 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 9:21 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/12: Castro, Ellsbury blossom

By Evan Brunell

CastroSaturday was a day full of star performances -- it was tough to whittle the list down to just three. Many of the stars were hitters, which comes as no surprise. Pitchers are only just now going deeper into games and transitioning from rounding everything into shape to competitively pitching while hitters are ahead of the curve.

3 UP

1. SS Starlin Castro, CHC: 3 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 4 RBI, 2 HR. Castro put on a power display Saturday, blasting two home runs and filling up the stat sheet. Castro is set to be the Cubs' starting shortstop in his first full season. While Castro impressed last season with a .300/.347/.408 line in 506 plate appearances, it was with just three home runs at age 20 and should add power over the next few years.

2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS: 3 AB, 3 R, 3 H, 3 RBI, 1 HR. Is Ellsbury a man on a mission to prove his detractors wrong after appearing in just 18 games last season and having his work ethic called into question? Now hitting .440 in spring training, Ellsbury could really turn heads if he returns to the lineup and builds upon his 2009 year (.301/.355/.415).

3. SP Zach Britton, BAL: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K. The Orioles have to be thrilled with Britton, who now has given up no runs in 10 innings this spring. He has zero chance of breaking camp with the team, partly due to the major-league rotation being full and partly because there's no reason to call him up until June at the earliest to delay free agency another year. But don't worry, O's fans: Britton's coming to Baltimore ... soon.

3 DOWN

1. CF Roger Bernadina, WAS: 4 AB, 0 H, 3 K. Mike Morse is slated to be the Nationals' starting left fielder, narrowing the outfield competition to just center field where Nyjer Morgan is attempting to hold off Rick Ankiel and Bernadina. Unfortunately for Bernadina, just one terrible game could be enough to put him squarely behind in the competition. Given Morgan's incumbency and Ankiel's history, Bernadina already faced an uphill battle before flirting with the golden sombrero.

2. SP R.A. Dickey, NYM: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. Dickey's got a lock on a rotation spot, but if he doesn't perform up to snuff could be replaced in the season. Such is the life of a journeyman knuckleballer. He'll have these days from time to time -- but he can't have too many of them.

3. SP Carlos Silva, CHC: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. Poor Carlos Silva. This competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation must really be getting to him. After the clunker against the Reds which featured five projected starters, Silva has a ghastly 16.20 ERA. He may have sealed his fate with this game.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 5:40 pm
 

Garza fine after taking liner off ribs

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Matt GarzaCubs starter Matt Garza felt good enough to joke about being hit in the ribs by a Jeff Francoeur line drive after the fact.

"It's all right," Garza told reporters (via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat on Twitter). "I've got tattoos all over my ribs."

Instead of being jabbed millions of times by a tiny needle, Garza was drilled instead by a baseball.

Garza fell to his knees after getting hit, while shortstop Starlin Castro alertly picked the ball up and got Francoeur at first. Garza then got Alex Gordon to strike out and Brayan Pena to fly out, to finish out the inning. Although he was scheduled to go three innings today, Garza understandably left after two. He gave up one hit and threw 26 pitches.

Garza wasn't having the best day to begin with, forgetting to pack his jersey in his bag before leaving the Cubs' home of HoHoKam Park in Mesa for the Royals' Surprise Stadium. He wore an extra jersey the team packs for such occasions, wearing No. 94 instead of his usual No. 17.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:34 am
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Getting to know the Cubs

Posted by C. Trent Rosecrans

Mike Quade

KNOBLER: Cubs Camp Report -- All Smiles

MVP

MVP usually stands for Most Valuable Player -- but a player may not be the most valuable for the Cubs this season, instead the most valuable person could be manager Mike Quade. Quade didn't inherit the easiest job in the world -- the fact that it's been more than 100 years since the Cubs won the World Series is proof. Between managing the Psychiatrists' Row Rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva and Matt Garza and juggling a lineup full with the overpriced (Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome), the past-their-prime (Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena) and the unproven (Starlin Castro), Quade's got some interesting parts, but it could just as easily spin out of control as it is to work out.

PLAYER ORACLE : Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown to Carlos Marmol

Mordecai Brown played with Bob O'Farrell for the 1916 Chicago Cubs

Bob O'Farrell played with Phil Cavarretta for the 1934 Chicago Cubs

Phil Cavarretta played with Minnie Minoso for the 1955 Chicago White Sox

Minnie Minoso played with Rich Gossage for the 1976 Chicago White Sox

Rich Gossage played with Greg Maddux for the 1988 Chicago Cubs

Greg Maddux played with Carlos Marmol for the 2006 Chicago Cubs

POP CULTURE

Whenever the Cubs win at Wrigley Field, they play a song called Go, Cubs, Go and the entire crowd sings along. The song was written in 1984 by Steve Goodman, a Chicago native and Cubs fan.

However, Go, Cubs, Go is just one of three Cubs song written by Goodman, along with A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request and When the Cubs Go Marching In . The former is his masterpiece (and that's saying something when you're talking about the guy who wrote The City of New Orleans and You Never Even Called Me By My Name ) and also the impetus for Go Cubs Go .

When then-Cubs GM Dallas Green called A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request "depressing," Goodman wrote Go, Cubs, Go out of spite. Goodman, was a realistic Cubs fan -- when he sang Take Me Out To the Ballgame he switched the lyrics to, "It's root, root, root, for the home team, if they don't win, what else is new," and A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request is written in that tone. The kicker to the song is:

The dying man's friends told him to cut it out

They said stop it that's an awful shame

He whispered, "Don't Cry, we'll meet by and by near the Heavenly Hall of Fame

He said, "I've got season's tickets to watch the Angels now,

So its just what I'm going to do

He said, "but you the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs,

So its me that feels sorry for you!"

Goodman debuted the song in 1983, and then he died of leukemia on Sept. 20, 1984. Four days later, the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title, only to fall to the Padres in the National League Championship Series. 


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Posted on: February 25, 2011 3:22 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 3:25 pm
 

Quade has zero good leadoff options

Sunday, the Cubs will begin Cactus League play. Kosuke Fukudome will bat leadoff for Mike Quade's team, but that doesn't mean traditional fast-starter will be the first Cubs hitter on April 1 in the season opener. Quade told the Chicago Tribune it's far too early to know who he is going to lead off on that day.

The problem is, Cubs fans are going to complain no matter who Quade pencils into that leadoff spot, because every single player on the team is ill-suited to hit there.

In the above linked article, the Trib noted how dreadful Fukudome was in the leadoff slot last season. He does have a career .446 OBP in March and April, however, so he might be the best option. Still, he generally regresses as the season moves along and is only a career .233 hitter in the leadoff spot -- so it's not like he appears the long-term solution.

But look around the rest of the roster.

Starlin Castro is going to hit second, Quade has announced. The future star still doesn't have enough grasp of the strike zone to man the top of the order.

Alfonso Soriano? That's old hat and let us all thank Quade for not subjecting us to those debates again.

Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and Carlos Pena are obviously not options.

Marlon Byrd had a good season last year, but only 31 walks in 630 plate appearances to go with a .293 batting average doesn't fit. He's more a six-hole at this point.

Blake DeWitt has a career .335 OBP, which would be awful for a leadoff man. He has never shown signs of being able to handle much more than the eight-hole, but he is only 25.

Tyler Colvin's .316 OBP is even worse, so even if he supplants Fukudome as the early-season starter -- there's no doubt the job is his for good once mid-May strikes -- he's not viable at the top.

So, if you were Quade, who would you bat first? I honestly think I'd go into the season with Fukudome and hope that someone else shows a good penchant for getting on base during April and the first few weeks of May. Maybe Castro adapts, DeWitt surprises or Colvin alters his approach. The most likely scenario is this will be a hole for the entire season, which isn't the worst thing in the world. He could always just force Byrd up there out of necessity -- the veteran is enough of a professional to deal with it well. After all, the Giants entered last season with Aaron Roward atop the order.

-- Matt Snyder

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Posted on: February 21, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: February 21, 2011 10:39 am
 

Morning Pepper: The next indy-ball major leaguer?

De La Rosa

NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP: Dane De La Rosa's eventual destination of Port Charlotte took years to accomlpish, but the 28-year-old finally arrived after flaming out of the Yankees organization, selling real estate and playing independent baseball for four seasons.

"It's a great feel-good story," Rays director of minor-league operations Mitch Lukevics said of De La Rosa and his path back to relevancy that has him poised to follow in the footsteps of Scott Richmond and Robert Coello as ex-indy players who fight their way to the majors. But first, De La Rosa had some growing up to do.

"I felt like I belonged there, which is not the mindset you need to have when you're there," De La Rosa said of his time in New York in which he appeared in just 20 games over the 2003-04 season. "You need to be humbled. Going through all this has made me a humble person, so I don't regret it at all."

De La Rosa headed to independent baseball after the Yankees cut him, but he struggled to adjust and then took a year off to sell real estate. However, his dream wouldn't die and he couldn't handle knowing his baseball career was over, so he returned to the independent leagues.  His play in 2007 got him a late-season pickup by the Brewers, but all he got was one two-inning stint at the rookie level before being released.

But after two more years in the independent leagues, De La Rosa finally caught the attention of the Rays, who brought him in for a workout. Tampa witnessed a 6-foot-5 righty with a fastball reaching 97-mph and immediately signed him.

"He was pounding fastballs, and we were thinking this is too good to be true," Lukevics said. De La Rosa would go on to split the year between high-Class A and Double-A, posting a 2.01 ERA in 76 innings and whiffing 80 while coughing up 26 walks. Now, he has a chance to win a bullpen spot in the major leagues after being placed on the 40-man roster, news that came just weeks after becoming engaged. That's a lesson in the art of perseverance.

"If Dane De La Rosa has taken this journey and now he's on the 40-man major-league roster and a heartbeat away from pitching in the big leagues," Lukevics said, "it tells every young man, every player they have a chance if they keep working." (Tampa Tribune, also source of photo)

PARTY TIME: Brian Wilson is sure one lucky guy. He was picked up in Arizona by none other than Charlie Sheen on a private jet and ferried to Sheen's house, where he hosted yet another party. This one was full of ballplayers watching movies and kicking back. (And yes, Sheen's iconic Major League was played, capping off the night.) Sources said the party was only "R-rated" instead of the debauchery that usually happens at the Sheen estate.

No word on whether Wilson's virtual doppleganger attended the festivities. (TMZ)

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME: Pete Rose joined a fundraiser for a Legion team and had plenty of jokes to crack even as there was the requisite talk about Rose's gambling and Hall of Fame chances. "This is America. You're supposed to get second chances," Rose said. "I chose the wrong vice." Or maybe his second chance was frittered away when he lied about gambling? Anyways, cool anecdote: Rose would always leave four tickets per game for his father, who would move seats every time Rose didn't get a hit. One day when Rose went 0-for-4 and didn't hustle (imagine that) on a grounder to second, his father castigated him.

"He asked me, 'Did you run hard in your third at-bat with the runner on third?'" Rose relayed. "I thought about it and I realized I hadn't because I thought I should've gotten a hit, and I grounded out to second."

His father's response: "'Don't embarrass me in this town. You run until the umpire says safe or out.'" (Oroville Mercury-Register)

LONG TIME NO SEE: When the Pirates traded Jason Schmidt back in 2001, they were hoping the return would put them on the path to respectability. Instead, Armando Rios got hurt and Ryan Vogelsong posted a 6.00 ERA from 2001-06 after rocketing through the Giants' system. But now, Vogelsong is finally back in San Francisco after stints in Japan and Triple-A for the Phillies and Angels last season. 

Before Vogelsong picked the Giants, the Dodgers came calling, but the righty stayed true to his roots. "I was like, I just can't wear Dodger blue," he said. (MLB.com)

PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL: Edgar Renteria isn't upset that the Giants declined his $10.5 miliion option (an obvious move, he says) but the resulting $1 million offer was disrespectful, he says. "I'm not going to play for anybody for $1 million," Renteria said. "I'd rather retire. That is why I say it [was disrespectful]. It's because I know what I can do in this game."

Renteria eventually signed for $2.1 million with the Reds. Meanwhile, if being offered $1 million is disrespectful, sign me up. (San Jose Mercury News)

REST IN PEACE: Cardinals co-owner Andrew Baur has passed away at the tender age of 66. He was a part of the 1996 purchase of the Cardinals by majority owner Bill DeWitt and was a member of the board of directors since the ownership change. Cause of death is not yet known. (FOX Sports Midwest)

LITERARY GENIUS: In Sunday's Morning Pepper, R.A. Dickey revealed he was writing a book about his major-league career. It's not often you hear of ballplayers who can write -- nevermind even read -- but add Burke Badenhop to that list. The Marlin relayed a story of the judge recognizing him when he served jury duty, but that was only the start of his offseason. He also got married, assisted a friend in writing a book about financial planning and is co-writing a movie script with his agent. But now, all he's concerned about is winning a bullpen spot. (Palm Beach Post)

DHING AIN'T EASY: DHs don't get a lot of respect in the league. Not only is it virtually impossible for them to get Hall of Fame or All-Star consideration, but many believe it's pretty easy to walk up to the plate four times a game, take your hacks and then warm the bench without having to play defense. Not so, and Adam Dunn is trying to figure out how to transition to a DH role. Fortunately, ex-White Sox players in Jim Thome and Harold Baines have some advice. (Chicago Tribune)

LESSON LEARNED: It couldn't have been easy for Mike Quade to step into Lou Piniella's shoes and then make the move of benching Starlin Castro for one game, but there you have it. The budding shortstop rode the pine for a mental lapse, and the Rookie of the Year candidate has said he learned his lesson from it. Quade, however, refuses to call it discipline, rather preferring to term it a "teaching moment" to get Castro a breather after breaking into the bigs amid much hoopla and starting on a regular basis. (Chicago Tribune)

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: November 29, 2010 12:50 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2010 4:09 pm
 

Rookie all-stars announced


Topps announced its annual rookie all-star team Monday, and it's a pretty nice-looking lineup. It was a good year for rookies.

1B: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
2B: Neil Walker, Pirates
3B: Danny Valencia, Twins
SS: Starlin Castro, Cubs
OF: Austin Jackson, Tigers
OF: Michael Stanton, Marlins
OF: Jason Heyward, Braves
C: Buster Posey, Giants
RHP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
LHP: Jaime Garcia, Cardinals
RP: Neftali Feliz, Rangers

-- David Andriesen

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com