Cubs

Castros 200 hits just the beginning

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Castros 200 hits just the beginning

Friday, Sept. 23, 2011Posted: 7:20 p.m. Updated: 11:51 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
WATCH: Soriano happy for Castro

ST. LOUIS Starlin Castro has made it look easy.

It doesnt matter if Castros staring at a Cy Young Award winner or aSeptember call-up. Hes going to attack and be aggressive and go withhis instinctual feel for hitting.

Castro fouled off the games first pitch on Friday night. He drove thenext one from Chris Carpenter into center field. The line drive landedon Busch Stadiums green grass.

Someone threw the ball back into the dugout, which Castro plans to giveto his father back home in the Dominican Republic. Thats just one ofmany mementos that will be collected during what Castro believes couldbe a Hall of Fame career.

With that natural swing, Castro notched his 200th hit this season. Itcame during the first inning of a 5-1 victory that seriously damagedthe playoff hopes of the St. Louis Cardinals. He became the youngestCub in franchise history to reach the milestone, and the sixth-youngestto get there in major-league history.

Castro essentially has a Yeah, sure, why not? attitude to just aboutanything in this game. But hes definitely in elite company now. Since1900, only nine other players have reached 200 hits at the age of 21 oryounger, including: Alex Rodriguez, Al Kaline, Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb.

You got a potential superstar, Ryan Dempster said. He sure can hit.Its incredible his hand-eye coordination, his ability to put thebarrel of the bat on the ball. (Hes) just going to get better andbetter. The skys really the limit for him.

On this night, Dempster pitched six innings of one-run ball, andAlfonso Soriano blasted the go-ahead, three-run homer in the eighththat left the Cardinals (86-71) three games back in the wild-card racewith five to play. But very soon this entire Cubs team will revolvearound Castro.

(Its) performance on the field, Soriano said. You dont have totalk to be a leader. If he plays good, all those young guys around himare going to want to play like him.

Castro needed only 264 games and less than 1,000 at-bats in the minorsto prove that he was ready. The Cubs tried to downplay his offensivepotential and talked up his defensive range when he was promoted on May7 last year.

Castro then went out that night in Cincinnati and smashed a three-runhomer in his first at-bat and finished with six RBIs, a record for amajor-league debut.

The kids not afraid of the big moment. But even Jose Serra the scoutwho signed Castro out of the Dominican Republic almost five years ago had to admit: I didnt think at this time he was going to be in thebig leagues and doing the things that hes doing right now.

READ: Introducing the Cubs scout who found a huge Star(lin)

Castro has done it at Wrigley Field, on national television and infront of a demanding fan base. The All-Star shortstop was called out byESPNs Bobby Valentine and media members have speculated about a moveto another position. He keeps coming back for more.

Hes a really tough kid, bench coach Pat Listach said. He lovesplaying the game and he took it personal when he was criticized (and)I would have, too. But all he can do is (play). The people that aresaying these things about him and writing these things about him dontknow how hard it is to go out there and play that game every day.

Manager Mike Quade has pushed and disciplined Castro, the same way heonce coached up future American League MVP Miguel Tejada in Double-Aball. With Aramis Ramirez set to leave as a free agent, maybe the Cubswont need a traditional power-hitting third baseman. At the veryleast, they have a player to build their lineup around for the nextdecade.

No matter how good Cassie is andor becomes, you still want tosurround him with the best people available, Quade said. Were stillin projection mode with him. I think we have a really nice player. Fromthe power standpoint, it looks like hes heading in that direction. ButIm kind of a Missouri guy: Show me.

Castro feels like he has it all mapped out. Bat .300, get 200 hits andmake the All-Star team. Every year. He knows he has to cut down on hiserrors (28) to win a Gold Glove. Hes learned English because he wantsthe clubhouse responsibilities and the marketing opportunities.

Im working hard, Castro said, in preparation to be a complete superstar.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.