Blackhawks

The learning curve for Welington Castillo

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The learning curve for Welington Castillo

MILWAUKEE Welington Castillo has a rocket arm, and his bat has shown enough pop in the minors that the Cubs think they have a potential All-Star behind the plate.

But the 25-year-old catcher still has to work on the details of his game.

Cubs television analyst Bob Brenly, a former catcher, pointed that out during Fridays broadcast, and the idea that Castillo has trouble framing pitches quickly gained traction on Twitter.

An 8-7 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that took 13 innings and lasted more than five hours only amplified things. Cubs pitchers hit three batters and handed out 14 walks, one off the franchise mark set in 1962 during a 13-inning game in New York.

Welly will say it wasnt one of his better games receiving the ball, manager Dale Sveum said Saturday. Sometimes you do struggle with certain pitchers and you lose concentration.

But we got a grip on it. He knows what he was doing and we know what he was doing, so its not a big concern.

The Cubs specifically staff assistant Mike Borzello have been drilling this into Castillo and all their catchers since workouts at Fitch Park in spring training. The point of emphasis is making sure your thumb is up when you catch the ball (and not sticking out your elbow).

You dont want your thumb down when you catch it, Sveum said. You always take it out of the strike zone (that way).

Its like anything. If youre changing your mechanics hitting, it sometimes takes (awhile) to really (sink in). You can forget what youve been working on when you get in the batters box.

Its one of those things where we got to stay on (it) and make sure we dont revert back to our old habits.

The Cubs are still very high on Castillo, who came through their system in the Dominican Republic and worked hard to learn English. Hes played in the All-Star Futures Game and been on the prospect lists.

Castillo hit 28 homers in 130 games combined the previous two seasons at Triple-A Iowa. But his catching skills could still use a little polish. Its all part of the learning curve.

In the course of a game, Sveum said, it kind of speeds up and youre just worrying about calling the game, so you revert back to whats comfortable for you, but its not necessarily the right thing.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.