Castro’s Starlin role is 3-hole in Cubs’ lineup
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com March 31, 2012 8:32PM
Even though Starlin Castro has struggled hitting third in the order, manager Dale Sveum says that will be his spot because he’s the Cubs’ best hitter. | Christian Petersen~Getty Images
Updated: May 2, 2012 8:29AM
MESA, Ariz. — When the Cubs’ new bosses talk about the parallel tracks of building the organization from below while trying to win at the big-league level, Starlin Castro is the man with one foot on each track.
And the Castro Express continues full speed into the season.
Manager Dale Sveum has made Castro the No. 3 hitter, so the Cubs can start to build their lineup around him for years to come.
‘‘Yeah, I know the stats,’’ said Sveum, referring to Castro’s .225 average and .571 OPS in 187 career plate appearances in the 3-hole — all last season. ‘‘It’s a commitment I made. He’s still the best hitter on the team, and sometimes for the future of the team, too, you have to do it. Like I said early in camp, when do you do it to a good young hitter? Does anybody really know that answer?
‘‘It’s just something I committed to, and he’s been committed to it.’’
Still younger than the top prospects at Class AAA pushing for big-league jobs this year, Castro, 22, already is an All-Star with two .300 seasons in the majors.
‘‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’’ Sveum said, ‘‘but I think just this last week, even though he hasn’t gotten any hits, he’s gotten a lot better pitches to hit, and he’s looking more to the middle of the field.
‘‘I think it’s just time, and I think for the future of the franchise, it’s just best to get him there now.’’
Don’t count on Red Sox upper management’s irritation with Theo Epstein-comp pitcher Chris Carpenter’s elbow problems to result in any kind of MLB recourse. Carpenter passed Boston’s own physical.
◆ Setup man Kerry Wood threw four pitches Saturday in his second one-out appearance in three days as the Cubs ‘‘ease’’ him into the season. He got lifted for a pinch hitter when his spot in the order came up this time. He hadn’t pitched in 10 days until Thursday. He’s expected to make one more spring appearance Monday with a pitch limit expected to be at least a half-dozen.
◆ Think Cubs newcomer Paul Maholm is glad Albert Pujols is out of the National League Central? Pujols, now with the Angels, is 22-for-39 (.564) against Maholm with a 1.506 OPS. He hit the first pitch from Maholm for a two-run home run.
‘‘There’s a reason I made sure there weren’t any AL West teams on my wish list in free agency,’’ Maholm said.