Cubs

Starlin Castro 'embarrassed' after mental mistake in Cubs loss

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Starlin Castro 'embarrassed' after mental mistake in Cubs loss

MINNEAPOLIS - There was no place for Starlin Castro defenders on Twitter Friday night.

The enigmatic shortstop found himself under fire on social media again as he made another mental mistake in the field.

In the first inning of Friday's game against the Twins, Castro booted a routine double-play grounder with the bases loaded and then hung his head while retrieving the ball, allowing Minnesota's Eddie Rosario to motor home from second base on a ball that never left the infield dirt.

Two runs scored on the play and set the tone for the entire evening in an eventual 7-2 Cubs loss.

"That's bad. That's really bad," Castro said. "That's the kind of mistake that can't happen. It's really embarrassing. 

"I apologized to all my teammates. That's not supposed to happen. It's tough. I don't have any excuse. That kind of thing can't happen again."

[MORE: Cubs 'just didn't have it' in sloppy loss to Twins]

Castro has been plagued by mental mistakes and attention lapses in the field over his career, getting ripped on national TV and building a perception in some corners of the baseball world as a guy who may always be prone to miscues like this.

The error was Castro's 14th of the season, even though the mental mistake doesn't count against him on the stat sheet. 

Castro is a stand-up guy, who always faces up to his mistakes. He stood in front of his locker, ready to meet the media immediately after Friday's game, answering every question and looking each reporter in the eye, never deflecting blame or trying to hide from his gaffe.

"It makes me feel really bad because that's not me," Castro said. "I'm better than that. That should never happen. Not even one time. Never.

"Those kinds of things piss me off. ... I don't have any excuse for that. That kind of thing can't happen."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon insists he doesn't care about the physical mistakes in a game where everybody messes up eventually. But Maddon has been preaching a sharp mental focus since coming to the organization and he believes there's still hope for Castro removing those sort of mental lapses from his game, even at age 25 and in his sixth big-league season.

"Yep, we can [fix it]," Maddon said. "I'm a big believer in that. He is young. He has experience, but he's young. 

"We just have to keep working on that. That's the way you've gotta coach as a manager. If these guys were perfect, they wouldn't need us. I really like the kid a lot. I know nobody feels worse than he does right now."

Castro said he talked to starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks after the first inning, apologizing and owning up to his mistake.

But Castro wasn't the only guy to make a mistake behind Hendricks in the game. Miguel Montero let a run come home with a wild throw to second base and Kris Bryant threw wide of the first-base bag in the first inning, sinking another shot at a double play.

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Still, Hendricks refused to place blame on his teammates after the game.

"Everybody makes mistakes," Hendricks said. "I'm up there making mistakes all the time. There's no way I'm going to criticize guys ever.

"But they had more plays. Starlin made a great play in the hole later in the game. I just told them to keep their heads up and they'll get some more."

Hendricks did work around the mistake, closing the door for the Twins in that first inning and limiting Minnesota to just those two runs. 

Castro tried to make up for the early gaffe, drilling a pair of fly balls to the wall, including a shot to center field in the top of the second with a runner on base.

At the end of the day, the Cubs still presented a unified front and nobody seemed to let their frustrations cloud the message of a 35-30 team hoping to be playing in the postseason this year.

"You have to be able to communicate. That's part of being a team and being good teammates for each other," Hendricks said. "We have to pick each other up.

"If a mistake like that happens, then maybe I can make big pitches, get the next guy out and we can get out of the inning. It's just about constantly picking guys up."

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.”