Cubs

Mooney: Quade doesnt see Castro at leadoff yet

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Mooney: Quade doesnt see Castro at leadoff yet

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 7:25 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs want to push Starlin Castro without overwhelming him. There will already be enough pressure on the young shortstop.

Castro, who will turn 21 next month, knows he has to focus on his defense. With more game experience he should cut down on the 27 errors he committed last season. He will realize when to throw the ball, when to hold it and when to take a moment to let the game slow down.

Eventually Castros natural instincts should take over, and with his range and ability to track pop-ups he should become a quality defender.

And if Castro continues to evolve offensively, he could become the more traditional leadoff hitter the Cubs have been lacking. But manager Mike Quade isnt ready to give him those responsibilities just yet.

He hasnt earned the right to figure hes going to hit anywhere, Quade said Thursday at Fitch Park.

The Cubs dont want to hand Castro anything, but he finished 10th in the National League last year with a .300 average and settled nicely into the No. 2 spot.

Theres all sorts of value where hes at right now, Quade said. Id like to think hes going to be talented enough to possibly be that guy someday. But for right now itll be something well consider, (though) Id just as soon leave him and hope he proves me wrong.

Castro can only draw from less than 1,500 at-bats as a professional. Hes played in only 125 games in the majors. But hes also shown the ability to adapt.

Castro hit .339 (43-for-127) against left-handers and finished with 41 hits last August, the most for any Cubs rookie in any month since Ernie Banks in 1954. The Cubs are getting tired of the sophomore jinx story line.

I am leery about the second-year thing, Quade said. If we want this guy to play well (and) get off to a decent start with all the adjustments that are going to be made by other clubs on him, (then) well leave him somewhere we believe hes comfortable.

It may not be all that statistically significant where Castro hits in the lineup. But like the Opening Day starter question, it can be revealing about a manager and his clubhouse.
Ryan Dempster will pitch April 1 because he earned it with his performance and professionalism. Quade looked at the matchups and felt good enough about his relationship with Carlos Zambrano to tell him that he wouldnt be starting that day.

Quade will make concessions to Aramis Ramirez, who wants to hit cleanup and has been an RBI machine when healthy.

He doesnt figure to be one of those guys Ill mix and match with, Quade said. Some guys dont care, and I know he does. He seems like the four-hole to me.

The Cubs used nine different leadoff hitters and nine different cleanup hitters last season, a sign of their offensive dysfunction. Depending on his mood, Lou Piniella could be amused or annoyed by the daily lineup questions.

Quade tries to work two or three days in advance while scheduling this out. Ultimately, hell take the long view, on Castro and anyone else who produces enough to demand playing time.

Im a grown-up I reserve the right to change my opinion, Quade said. (But) the less worrying I have to do about lineups, the easier my summer will be, and thats the Gods honest truth. Because that means that guys have really taken charge and are doing things that make it easy for me.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”