Cubs

Moving to second base, Cubs won't force the issue with Castro

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Moving to second base, Cubs won't force the issue with Castro

Chicago sports fans know plenty about position battles.

Joe Maddon didn't exactly have a "Rex is our quarterback" type moment Tuesday, but he did commit to Addison Russell as the team's shortstop while Starlin Castro worked out at second base.

Maddon said even when Castro and Russell are in the lineup at the same time, Castro will be at second and Russell will stay at short.

[RELATED - Anthony Rizzo thinks Starlin Castro will be fine]

Castro took some ground balls at second base Tuesday afternoon and then again during batting practice.

"I'm eager to see Starlin at second base," Maddon said. "... I'm curious to see it. He's done it, he's very excited about it, he likes it. You're gonna see it. I don't know exactly when, but you're gonna see it."

Since he was moved to the bench over the weekend, Castro has sat out three straight games while Maddon has inserted Jonathan Herrera in at second as a defensive replacement for Chris Coghlan.

But, that's also been by design as Maddon wanted to make sure Castro got some work at second base and felt comfortable there, while also keeping his bat on the bench for a potential key pinch-hitting opportunity late in games.

"I'd really like to get him in there, but I don't want to force it," Maddon said. "I want to make sure that it's organic and that it's appropriate.

"Playing Jonny over him in these games is not a slight to Starlin. It's strategical in the sense that if the game went the other way again - which they all could have - that his bat was available to us."

Maddon is currently working with a four-man bench, meaning his options are limited.

[MORE - Cubs evolving under Joe Maddon's 'mad scientist' method]

Tommy La Stella - who was part of the mix at second base and third base to begin the season before an oblique injury derailed his season - came off the disabled list Tuesday, but was immediately optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

Javy Baez is still playing well in the minors (.904 OPS), but he doesn't factor into Maddon's equation at the moment.

Maddon wouldn't even commit to leaving the 21-year-old Russell at shortstop no matter what happens.

"I don't know that. He's the shortstop right now; I'll concede that," Maddon said. "He's the shortstop of the future, absolutely. You gotta get Javy here and playing and being successful to really even consider that.

"... Addy's looking like the guy everybody thought he was gonna be. Javy's still getting his way back here. And Starlin, we're trying to get him back on his feet.

"After the game the other day, after we won, [Castro] came up to me and wanted me to know what a great series it was and how happy he was. Not in a phony way. He was very genuine and I thought that was pretty solid on his part."

Maddon said Castro will get the start at second base against left-handed pitchers (while left-handed-hitting Coghlan would likely slide to the bench), but also said the 25-year-old may see some time at third base, too, even though he hasn't worked out there yet.

In his big-league career, Castro has only played shortstop, logging 838 games there. In the minors, he played 27 games at second base and seven at third base, but none at either position since he was an 18-year-old in 2008 in rookie ball.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

Castro is all for moving anywhere as long as his name finds its way into the lineup.

"I don't mind it. I just want to play," he said. "No matter where they have to put me, I just want to play and be in the lineup. Doesn't matter if it's at second or at short."

Castro said he feels comfortable at second base and he reinforced the team-first mindset he's shown during his time with the Cubs.

For the first time since he got to Chicago in 2010, Castro is playing on a contender and he's loving it.

"Whatever can help the team win," he said. "We don't think about 'me,' we think about 'us.' It's about the team now."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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AP

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: