Cubs

Mooney: Quade doesnt see Castro at leadoff yet

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Mooney: Quade doesnt see Castro at leadoff yet

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 7:25 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs want to push Starlin Castro without overwhelming him. There will already be enough pressure on the young shortstop.

Castro, who will turn 21 next month, knows he has to focus on his defense. With more game experience he should cut down on the 27 errors he committed last season. He will realize when to throw the ball, when to hold it and when to take a moment to let the game slow down.

Eventually Castros natural instincts should take over, and with his range and ability to track pop-ups he should become a quality defender.

And if Castro continues to evolve offensively, he could become the more traditional leadoff hitter the Cubs have been lacking. But manager Mike Quade isnt ready to give him those responsibilities just yet.

He hasnt earned the right to figure hes going to hit anywhere, Quade said Thursday at Fitch Park.

The Cubs dont want to hand Castro anything, but he finished 10th in the National League last year with a .300 average and settled nicely into the No. 2 spot.

Theres all sorts of value where hes at right now, Quade said. Id like to think hes going to be talented enough to possibly be that guy someday. But for right now itll be something well consider, (though) Id just as soon leave him and hope he proves me wrong.

Castro can only draw from less than 1,500 at-bats as a professional. Hes played in only 125 games in the majors. But hes also shown the ability to adapt.

Castro hit .339 (43-for-127) against left-handers and finished with 41 hits last August, the most for any Cubs rookie in any month since Ernie Banks in 1954. The Cubs are getting tired of the sophomore jinx story line.

I am leery about the second-year thing, Quade said. If we want this guy to play well (and) get off to a decent start with all the adjustments that are going to be made by other clubs on him, (then) well leave him somewhere we believe hes comfortable.

It may not be all that statistically significant where Castro hits in the lineup. But like the Opening Day starter question, it can be revealing about a manager and his clubhouse.
Ryan Dempster will pitch April 1 because he earned it with his performance and professionalism. Quade looked at the matchups and felt good enough about his relationship with Carlos Zambrano to tell him that he wouldnt be starting that day.

Quade will make concessions to Aramis Ramirez, who wants to hit cleanup and has been an RBI machine when healthy.

He doesnt figure to be one of those guys Ill mix and match with, Quade said. Some guys dont care, and I know he does. He seems like the four-hole to me.

The Cubs used nine different leadoff hitters and nine different cleanup hitters last season, a sign of their offensive dysfunction. Depending on his mood, Lou Piniella could be amused or annoyed by the daily lineup questions.

Quade tries to work two or three days in advance while scheduling this out. Ultimately, hell take the long view, on Castro and anyone else who produces enough to demand playing time.

Im a grown-up I reserve the right to change my opinion, Quade said. (But) the less worrying I have to do about lineups, the easier my summer will be, and thats the Gods honest truth. Because that means that guys have really taken charge and are doing things that make it easy for me.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

Ozzie Guillen and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi to talk all things Chicago baseball as the Cubs take on the Braves and the White Sox look to get a win in Boston.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: