Cubs

Starlin Castro believes this Cubs season has made him stronger

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Starlin Castro believes this Cubs season has made him stronger

SAN FRANCISCO — This isn’t the breakthrough season Starlin Castro envisioned for the Cubs. A three-time All-Star shortstop would have pictured being in the middle of it all when Wrigley Field started rocking again.

But Castro hasn’t pouted since losing his job to Addison Russell, trying to make the best of the situation and reinvent himself as a second baseman. Contributing to a winning team — finally — means more than his stats or his ego.

“Those moments make you stronger,” Castro said.

Castro forced his way into Wednesday’s lineup against the San Francisco Giants, batting second after almost hitting for the cycle the night before at AT&T Park (where Russell arrived late after the birth of his son).

[MORE CUBS: Cubs go outside the box with Kyle Schwarber at leadoff]

If a very streaky hitter suddenly gets hot, could Castro become an everyday player again?

“Sure,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The consistent hard contact was really nice to see. The fact that he’s taken so readily and easily to second base — just the way he’s handled this professionally — speaks loudly to me and to the whole group.

“This guy is an All-Star-caliber player. He’s just had a hard time this year. And it happens. It happens to all of us. But like I said, I think he’s done everything properly, and we’ll see how it plays.”

Maddon still wants to play matchups and incorporate Chris Coghlan and Tommy La Stella at second base (while Javier Baez is also a likely September call-up from Triple-A Iowa).

[MORE CUBS: Cubs counting on Kyle Hendricks in the stretch run]

But Castro isn’t looking for a way out of Chicago, even with a feeling inside his camp that a change of scenery might help reboot his career.

Castro is guaranteed $37 million across the next four years, which complicates any offseason trade talks but still doesn’t even take him to his 30th birthday.

Even though so much has changed around him, Castro still feels a loyalty to the organization that signed him out of the Dominican Republic almost nine years ago.

After being a lightning rod for the teams that finished in fifth place for five years in a row, Castro wants to see the next phase of this rebuilding project.

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Starlin Castro jersey right here]

“That means a lot,” Castro said. “I’ve been here when the team’s been struggling. That’s why I want to (get out there) now that we’re playing so good. I want to be part of this team.”

Castro homered for the first time since June 12 on Tuesday at a place where it’s supposed to be harder to see the ball at night and generate power. But in working with hitting coach John Mallee, Castro has mostly been focusing on trying to blast line drives right back up the middle. Castro’s OPS still hadn’t risen above .600 yet, but he had gone 20-for-65 (.308 average) in his previous 23 games.

Who knows what the next chapter will be in such an up-and-down career?

“For me right now, it doesn’t matter where I am in the lineup,” Castro said. “I just want to be in the lineup every day, to get my confidence back, to get my every-day play back. That’s what we’re trying to do again.”

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":

View this post on Instagram

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...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below: