Cubs

Cubs not rushing to judgment on Castro

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Cubs not rushing to judgment on Castro

Success has come so fast for Starlin Castro that when things like 3,000 hits or the Hall of Fame were mentioned, hed shrug and say: Why not?

It didnt come across as arrogant. Castros teammates liked his quiet confidence. It seemed a little nave. This is a polite kid from the Dominican Republic who worked hard to learn English, in part because of the potential endorsement opportunities.

The Cubs continue to say that their 21-year-old All-Star shortstop will be at this weekends convention, a marketing event that will have to deal with a recent report that Castro was accused of sexual assault and is under investigation by Chicago police.

The story came out last week, more than three months after a police report was filed. Castros attorneys have called the allegations baseless. The player has not been charged with a crime.

Theo Epstein didnt want to talk about Castro specifically during Wednesdays media event at Harry Carays downtown. The new president of baseball operations only said the facts will develop and as the story evolves, there will be an appropriate time (to comment).

Dale Sveum met with the young shortstop in Chicago in mid-November, on the day of the managers introductory press conference. Sveum said he wasnt aware of the situation at the time, but doesnt believe it will negatively impact Castro.

I dont really know the details of all of it, Sveum said, but I dont think its going to affect (him). Right now its what it is and I think its being taken care (of through the proper channels).

The new manager was asked what sort of message hed give to his players about representing the Cubs away from the ballpark.

They are grown men, Sveum said. Ive raised my children and sometimes you do have to treat a lot of these players like theyre your children. Guys get misled. They dont quite understand sometimes how to handle the off-field activities, so to speak, especially when youre in a big city like Chicago.

You do a lot of talking. Communication helps out, but the bottom line is theyre grown men. So they have to grow up on their own sometimes, too.

This isnt necessarily a direct response to Castros situation. But next year Epstein is planning to introduce a rookie-development program similar to one designed by the Red Sox when he was the general manger in Boston, another pressurized market with great expectations and a steep learning curve.

When you have a lot of young players at the big-league level, Epstein said, often times you forget just how new they are to this whole thing professional baseball, the responsibility that comes with it, the importance of representing the organization the right way (and) being a good teammate.

Organizations that just assume that theyll figure it out on their own make a big mistake. (Were going to) teach them whats its like to be a big-leaguer, set the expectations for them and give them tools on how to meet those expectations, everything from how to deal with the media to how to say no to people off-the-field that want things from them.

(Its) how to properly handle themselves in the hotel or out on the town. Its an important part. You cant make assumptions that guys know how to handle themselves. You need to work with them. You want an organization that projects the right image.

To make a positive impact on the community, you have to work to get it. The players are the ones who are going to dictate how that goes. We need to support them every step of the way.

For the Cubs and Castro, right now that means letting it play out and not rushing to make any judgments.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: