MILWAUKEE Everyone understood that Year 3 would be a revealing look into the type of player Starlin Castro could ultimately become.
Last year Castro thought those billboards opposite Derek Jeter were cool, and his Why not? attitude leads him to believe he could be a Cal Ripken Jr.-type, a franchise player who spends his entire career in one place.
A Cubs official once mentioned Edgar Renteria as a reference point. Ex-manager Mike Quade may have singled out Castro too often, but the tough love worked well for Miguel Tejada back when they were together in Double-A ball.
Castro is immensely talented, and still only 22 years old, but the mental lapses make you wonder sometimes.
Its my fault, Castro said. I know that I have to concentrate. (Its) a new day, (so) dont think about yesterday and dont let that bad kind of thing happen again.
Manager Dale Sveum had a talk with Castro on Tuesday, some 24 hours after the young shortstop forgot how many outs there were and kept jogging off the field, not throwing to first base on a potential double-play ball.
Sveum seemed to reach a breaking point after Mondays 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants, threatening to sit Castro and challenging him to get his head in the game.
Sveum watched Castro (3-for-5) respond with a good all-around game in a 10-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Youre not going to bench a guy for something like that, Sveum said. Youre going to bench guys for not playing hard or not preparing and things like that. Thats just one of those unfortunate things that happen and you try to eliminate (them).
Hes had a few incidents, obviously, but people forget that hes come a long way defensively. He hasnt made a fielding error in maybe six weeks now, so were forgetting about the big picture that the guys still hitting .300.
Beyond wins and losses, Sveums coaching staff figures to be judged on how young players like Castro develop.
For the most part, Sveum likes the way Castro has gone about his business, studying video and spray charts and buying into the defensive shifts and positioning. The manager appeared to be backing away from his last straw comments.
Im not reneging on what I said, Sveum said. He knows that its the last straw, meaning a number of things, not just something like a brain fart on the field. Its the whole package of doing everything you can to make yourself and the people around you better.
Alfonso Soriano essentially delivered the same message to Castro.
You take the talent that hes got, he (can be overconfident), Soriano said. You forget the part of the game thats most important mental. Hes got his ability physically, but sometimes mentally he doesnt even think about it, because he knows hes got big talent.
You can make an error throwing, drop the ball, but mentally its not acceptable. Maybe once, its acceptable, because we are human, but not a couple times.
You shouldnt underestimate the mental toughness it took to leave the Dominican Republic and get to the majors in less than 1,000 minor-league at-bats.
Castro also showed drive in learning how to speak English and becoming comfortable communicating with the media and people around the organization. Hes expected to take charge now.
All the great shortstops of all-time were always commanding the field defensively, Sveum said. Thats what goes with that position. You have to be the leader and understand that youre the one who makes everybody around you better, whether its your throws (or) the double plays (or) making sure somebodys in the right spot.
As Theo Epsteins front office ramps up the rebuilding project, how Castro responds the next four months will be telling.
Its his job to take control of the situation, Sveum said. Its that time where you got to step up and start making people better around you.