Cubs

Cubs: Joe Maddon entertained by Starlin Castro’s mime routine

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Cubs: Joe Maddon entertained by Starlin Castro’s mime routine

ST. LOUIS – If you love Joe Maddon’s anti-rules philosophy and free-spirited attitude, then you can’t complain about Starlin Castro’s mime routine. It’s indirectly part of the liberal arts education at The Cub University.

Castro said he wasn’t clowning around when he stood behind Kris Bryant and mimicked throwing to first base. The All-Star shortstop said instincts took over on a groundball hit to the left side of the infield during Wednesday night’s 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

[RELATED - GIF: Even Starlin Castro wants to be just like Kris Bryant]  

“It was very entertaining,” Maddon said Thursday at Busch Stadium. “I don’t think there’s anything awful or wrong about it. Some purists might be offended. But I guess they never saw ‘The Gashouse Gang’ play. I have no problem with it.

“You’re not going to do it all the time, obviously. It was just one of those moments that does indicate that we’re playing the game in a manner. Meaning that we’re not uptight, which I really prefer. We’re just nice and loose and play the game.”

The manager had already been ejected from the game by the time Castro did what Cubs analyst Jim Deshaies described on the broadcast as “a Globetrotters routine.”

“Yeah, Castro deked me there,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who gave him a what-was-that?-look, sort of laughed it off and appeared to tell him to calm down.

“I didn’t know who was throwing it,” Rizzo said. “And then ‘Rossy’ (catcher David Ross) just told me: ‘Hey, make sure you’re paying attention.’ It’s just one of those things where we’re goofing off.”

“He knows, he knows,” Castro said, “because he sees who catches the ball.”

Bryant made the play at third base not realizing a routine groundball would go viral.

“I just saw Anthony throw his hands up,” Bryant said. “We’re having fun out there. At the end of the day, we’re here to have fun and win as many games as possible. And (Castro) has a whole lot of fun, that’s for sure.”

Rizzo said: “We do things on the infield throughout the game. Little things. If people heard what we said or what we’re doing, they’d probably laugh at it. But it’s really keeping it loose and having fun.”

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Fair or not, questions about defensive concentration and pitch-to-pitch focus have followed Castro almost from the moment he made his big-league debut, which happened exactly five years ago on Thursday. No one in the National League has more than Castro’s 878 hits in the last five years, and at the age of 25 he should be entering his prime.

“Obviously, with good health, he’s going to put up some crazy good numbers over a period of time,” Maddon said. “To get to the playoffs and the World Series is really going to enhance his reputation. It’s a maturation process. He’s piled up all these good numbers already. As he really understands himself even better and more, I think it’s going to get better.”   

Castro clearly enjoys playing for Maddon, his fifth manager in the last six seasons.

“He’s playing a nice, loose, free game of baseball,” Maddon said. “And that’s what I want.”

David Bote's neverending game of chess

David Bote's neverending game of chess

David Bote feels like he's in a neverending game of chess.

He's been so ingrained in the Cubs conversation the last two years that it's easy to forget this is his first full big-league season and he's still learning the ropes.

Bote is now nationally known thanks to the ultimate grand slam he hit last August, but he's not hanging his hat on that one accomplishment and has found a way to conjure up some staying power in the majors. He's a former 18th-round draft pick who never found his name on top prospect lists, yet signed a five-year, $15 million extension before even playing his first home game in 2019.

But Bote won't rest on his laurels with that contract extension, either. He knows he's in store for a constant battle.

"It's never ending," Bote said. "[The league] points out something that you do and you make an adjustment off it and then they make another adjustment off of you. It's just trying to stay with what you want to do and also try to stay in front of what they're trying to do at the same time."

Much like he did last year, Bote got out to a hot start this season but then eventually hit a rough pitch. 

After he had a tough series in Cincinnati in mid-May (he went 0-for-8 with 6 strikeouts), he found himself on the bench for back-to-back games while his season average dipped to .239 and OPS fell to .713.

But then he got the start at third base in Washington on May 18, hit a homer and hasn't looked back since.

From that game on, Bote has a 1.027 OPS while slashing .324/.378/.649 with 6 homers and 18 RBI in 19 starts.

The 26-year-old infielder has earned more playing time with his production, taking advantage of the respective offensive slumps from Addison Russell and Daniel Descalso. As the Cubs faced a tough righty in Lucas Giolito Wednesday night, it was Bote who found his name at second base and he responded with a homer off the American league ERA leader.

"He started out well, then he hit a little bit of a skid, which was good because he had some problems at the major-league level early in the season and he's overcome that already," Joe Maddon said earlier this month. "So you need to go through that adversity, too. My goodness, David's got a great head on his shoulders. He's a team-oriented player. 

"He's like any other young player — he's still working to really understand what's going on every day and understanding himself. But he does it in a very mature way. He's gonna keep getting better because he listens well, and I think he's getting to the point where he understands his strengths, which is really important. Just watch him — he's gonna continue to get better."

Bote doesn't feel like the neverending game of chess gets any easier, but at least now, he has a checklist he can go through to evaluate his mechanics or mental approach or whatever else may be slightly off. 

At the end of the day, it's all about confidence for Bote — as it is for every player in the big leagues.

"Whether you feel good or feel bad that day, it's trying to be as confident as you can and just letting your ability and your work before that take over," Bote said. "I'm not in the box thinking about my mechanics, but trying to trust that my BP and cage work and all that that takes over and you just go to battle.

"And if [you're still not feeling great], then you say, 'Screw it, I'll just go out there and battle today and get 'em tomorrow.' It's all fluid. It's all ever-changing."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki check in from Wrigley Field after the Cubs split the first leg of the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox.

Kelly and Tony discuss the breaking news of top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay's promotion to the big leagues and what his role could be with the Cubs (2:15), and assess where the Cubs stand as they continue their long homestand, including the recent offensive downturn and Yu Darvish taking a step forward (7:30).

Cubs Talk Podcast

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