Cubs

Cubs make commitment to Starlin Castro

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Cubs make commitment to Starlin Castro

MESA, Ariz. This will be a pivotal year for Starlin Castro, who just turned 22 and has already played in an All-Star Game and led the National League in hits. Hes seen his image up on billboards and his name in the news for the wrong reasons.

The Cubs think their most dynamic player will show more power, more focus and more maturity in 2012. Manager Dale Sveum knows the numbers werent good when Castro hit third last season .225 in 178 at-bats but remains committed to the idea.

Hes still the best hitter on the team, and sometimes for the future of the team you have to do it, Sveum said before Saturdays 3-3 tie with the Los Angeles Angels. When do you do it to a good young hitter? Does anybody really know that answer? So its just something I committed to (and) hes been committed to it.

Its just time, and I think for the future of the franchise its best to get him in there now.

If you ask Castro about his goals for this season, he immediately talks about playing better defense. Sveum, an old shortstop, made that a point of emphasis from Day 1, showing Castro how to gain ground and attack the ball.

Ive seen quite a bit of improvement the work ethic is better, Sveum said. Hes learned that he has to slow his feet down after he catches the ball to make accurate throws. Hes got a great arm. You dont need to speed that arm up (because his feet are) too fast. That gets a lot of young guys in trouble.

But hes been very, very receptive of everything Ive asked him to do. Now, hes still a guy have to not stay on as far as jumping his butt every day but you give him goals each day when hes working.

Sveum has set the scale 1 to 10 for the drills and asks Castro grade himself out. Sveum has heard Castro come in and say: Hey, I was a 10 today.

I was like, Nah, you dont think I was watching? I saw that one little throwaway 10 is perfect, Sveum recalled. Sveum also said that Castro is usually honest, and has given himself an 8, which his manager thinks is unacceptable at the major-league level.

This will be the interesting back-and-forth between an old-school manager and a potential star with a lot on his shoulders.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

Mark Schanowski, Mark Carman and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the D'Backs thanks to a surprisingly solid start from Tyler Chatwood. Should the Cubs trust him more than they trust Yu Darvish? Meanwhile, the bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

12:00- The guys preview the huge series against the Dodgers at Wrigley.

16:00- The White Sox lose 2 of 3 in Detroit but Kap is still excited about the future.

20:00- The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs are becoming a fight. So who will win the East? And can anybody even threaten the Warriors?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

Cubs pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

After starting the season 2-7 on the road, two weeks without Jon Lester looked like a possible death sentence for the Cubs. Instead, it now looks like a turning point.

Somebody needed to step up. Anybody. Bullpen or rotation, but preferably both. Well, that is exactly what happened and the Cubs are quickly back to the .500 mark at 10-10.

Jose Quintana was the first to accept the challenge, dominating the surprising Pirates with the eleven strikeouts and then seven shutout innings against the lowly Marlins in his next outing. He pitched "like a Porcshe" while attacking batters in both games with precision handling and it was contagious. Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood followed his lead while the bullpen turned around their production, too.

Our stats guru, Chris Kamka, offered up these facts to show the startling improvements.

In the first nine games, the Cubs' team ERA, starter ERA and reliever ERA all ranked 29th or worse in MLB. It's a team game, but it was obvious which part of the team was struggling. Over the last 11 games, everything has changed. Since that opening road trip from Hell, the Cubs have led the majors in all three categories. The relievers have posted a 1.85 ERA and the starters are at a blistering 1.66 ERA with six quality starts since Lester went on the injured list. 

Yes, it's a small sample size in a 162 game season. However, if we're going to overreact to a disastrous start, it's only fair to also hyperbolize this spectacular stretch. We asked for somebody to step-up. The Cubs' pitching staff did just that.    

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