Cubs

With Cubs at a crossroads, Starlin Castro goes to work

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With Cubs at a crossroads, Starlin Castro goes to work

More than three-and-a-half hours before first pitch, Starlin Castro held a bat in his right hand, swinging with one arm at the balls Cubs hitting coach John Mallee threw underhand.   

Manager Joe Maddon watched Castro from behind the batting cage at Wrigley Field, and the three-time All-Star shortstop certainly appears to be under the microscope leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, with rumors already flying around Twitter about what the Cubs might do next.

But the early work paid off in Monday night’s 9-8 comeback victory over the Colorado Rockies, Castro delivering a key hit during a fourth-inning rally that helped the Cubs erase a four-run deficit and move on from getting swept by the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend.

[MORE: Cubs looking to deal, but Cole Hamels sounds like a long shot]

After that walk-off win, the news broke about a blockbuster trade involving franchise shortstops, Troy Tulowitzki leaving the Rockies and heading to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package headlined by Jose Reyes. 

Castro has been such a disappointment this season that it’s hard to picture him in a new uniform by Friday. But if he gets locked in, he still probably has more offensive upside than any bat the Cubs (52-46) could realistically add for the stretch run.

“He’s engaged, man,” Maddon said. “He’s struggling. (But) I’ll always defend players that care and work hard. I always will. And I think he cares and he’s working hard.”

The point of that drill is to swing with one arm and take a direct path to the ball, not rolling it over. Castro knocked a Jorge De La Rosa pitch into left field, through the hole between third base and shortstop, driving in the game-tying and go-ahead runs.

“I’m looking at the videos from when he was going really good,” Maddon said. “A lot of times when a major-league guy is out of whack, it’s nothing obvious or glaring. It’s normally something subtle. And with him, it is subtle. That’s why it’s so difficult to get it back sometimes.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon has been watching videos from last year, when Castro hit .292 and put up 14 homers and 65 RBI before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in September. Maddon has seen the juxtaposition, noticing a more open stance as Castro maybe falls into some bad habits.

Castro’s .575 OPS is 202 points lower than where it ended last season, when the Cubs could hope for an even bigger offensive breakthrough on a relevant team during his age-25 season.

“There are some differences, but they’re so small,” Maddon said. “You have to sacrifice comfort for function. But sometimes you sacrifice function for comfort. They become more comfortable and it’s not necessarily functional.

“You got to really watch that closely. It happens. Not just only to him, but to a lot of guys. You just get away from what you normally did, normal patterns. And all of a sudden, it starts feeling normal, but it’s not good. And then it’s hard to get back to where you had been.” 

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

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It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...