Cubs

Castillo hopes to follow Sorianos lead

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Castillo hopes to follow Sorianos lead

MESA, Ariz. Welington Castillo remembers seeing Alfonso Soriano working out at the Cubs academy and wondering what the 136 million man was doing there.

Soriano, Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol have become billboards for the organization in the Dominican Republic, where the Ricketts family plans to construct a new facility and build a bigger pipeline to Wrigley Field.

Castillo will turn 25 in April and has already spent seven seasons in the system (and 11 games with the big-league club). The catcher with a rocket arm and bilingual skills took this message from Soriano years ago.

Thats where youre going to be, Castillo recalled Wednesday. You have to keep (working), so you dont just get to the big leagues. You stay in the big leagues. Thats why theyre always working hard.

I was growing up with that mentality. I want to get there and stay there. I dont want to just get there and come back (and forth).

Either way, thats where this could be heading. Geovany Sotos groin injury which has limited him for several days but is considered minor made you wonder about the future of the Cubs behind the plate.

Soto emerged as an All-Star and the National Leagues Rookie of the Year in 2008, when he hit .285 and accounted for 23 homers and 86 RBI. He has landed on the disabled list in each of the past three seasons.

Soto is also a popular, well-respected figure in the clubhouse, a homegrown catcher who can hit for power (34 homers combined the past two seasons), which is unique. He will make 4.3 million this year and wont become a free agent until after the 2013 season.

The backup job will be a battle between Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Jason Jaramillo. Clevenger made his big-league debut last year, while Jaramillo, a non-roster invitee, has spent parts of the past three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Manager Dale Sveum said the deciding factor will be who handles the pitchers best.

Even after an injury-plagued 2011 season that shut him down in late August and robbed him of a September call-up, Castillo is regarded as the organizations sixth-best prospect by Baseball America.

Castillo still managed to hit 15 homers in 61 games at Triple-A Iowa. He rehabilitated his hamstring last fall at the Cubs complex in Arizona, then wasnt allowed to play winter ball at home.

The focus was on what could be a breakthrough season. Working out alongside Soriano and Castro at the academy, he focused on agility and lost around 20 pounds, getting down to 205, so he could feel more flexible and ease the stress on his body.

I dont have to show anything, Castillo said. I just have to play. I dont want to put any pressure on myself, like, Yo, I got to hit. I got to catch. I got to throw people out. I just got to go out there and play the way I (can), play hard all the time.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

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NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

Ozzie Guillen explains why he thinks Manny Machado is a better fit for the Cubs than the White Sox. Plus, Guillen and Marlon Byrd react to 19-year-old Juan Soto hitting a homer in his first at-bat with the Nationals.

Later in the show the guys debate who had the better rants in front of the media: Guillen or Byrd?

Finally, Byrd opens up about his PED suspensions, relates to the guys caught using PEDs now and Guillen offers up a solution to rid baseball of PEDs entirely.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: