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Theo Epstein’s sure Starlin Castro is worth it

Brett Jacksis out after trying steal third base ninth inning Sunday. | David Kohl~AP

Brett Jackson is out after trying to steal third base in the ninth inning Sunday. | David Kohl~AP

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Updated: September 21, 2012 6:37AM



CINCINNATI — It took eight or nine months for the Cubs’ front office and field staff to see enough of what teammates already knew about Starlin Castro to decide to commit big, long-term money to the 22-year-old All-Star.

And once that seven-year, $60 million deal gets finalized in the next week or so, they’ll see how the kid with occasional mental lapses but uncommon drive handles the newfound fame and fortune.

‘‘The fame is already there; you’re playing in Chicago and a front-line guy on the Chicago Cubs,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘And I think he’s done well. But, obviously, if you get that kind of money, it’s a whole ’nother responsibility, to understand that there’s a big responsibility that comes with that kind of money and not being carried away.

‘‘Obviously, he’ll be financially secure for the rest of his life, and now you only have one other thing to accomplish, and that’s to get better every single day and win the World Series.’’

The contract would include a $16 million option for an eighth year and won’t include a no-trade clause (a long-standing policy of team president Theo Epstein).

Epstein reiterated some of the virtues he and his staff have seen in Castro that teammates have seen since he broke into the big leagues in 2010: a strong work ethic, a drive to improve and a commitment to a team-first approach.

‘‘If you’re going to give long term to a player, you want to make sure you have very few reservations about the talent and about the character,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘You want to make sure it’s for the right years, the right ages, and in my opinion, you want to try to wrap up as many prime-age years as you can. You want to maybe let somebody else pay for the decline.’’

Growth chart

In a span of about 18 hours, Brett Jackson got his first home run Saturday night and a ninth-inning double Sunday off a 99-mph fastball from Reds All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.

Never mind that he was thrown out trying to steal third on an over-aggressive move in the one-run loss.

‘‘I think it was pretty impressive,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Even though the strikeouts were still there, I think Brett Jackson came a long way in this series: at-bats, pitch recognition. … He hit a double off Chapman, and I think that shows you a little bit of the character, and hopefully [there’s] a lot more stuff like that to come from him.’’

Jackson, who said he felt more comfortable at the plate Saturday than he has since being called up from Class AAA Iowa, has six hits in his last 22 at-bats (.273) with two doubles, a triple, a homer and nine strikeouts. He was 3-for-25 with 15 K’s and no extra-base hits before that.

‘‘That definitely gives you some confidence,’’ he said of the drive to the opposite gap off Chapman. ‘‘If you can be on time on 99, 100, you can be on time 70 through 90. So we’ll check out that video tomorrow and take from it.’’

Hire calling

The Cubs are moving quickly to fill their farm-director opening, with interviews scheduled this week for three candidates.

Sources say the three are Alex Suarez, the team’s player development/international scouting coordinator who’s in his seventh season with the organization; Brandon Hyde, the team’s minor-league field coordinator in his first season with the organization; and former Braves farm director Kurt Kemp, now a professional scout for the Pirates.

The job has been open since longtime farm director Oneri Fleita was fired last week amid a flurry of front-office moves.

Notes

The Cubs claimed lefty reliever Alex Hinshaw off waivers from the Padres and expect him to join the bullpen Monday in Milwaukee, at which point the team says it will have a corresponding roster move.

Anthony Rizzo (four hits in his last 23 at-bats entering Sunday) got his first day off from the starting lineup since being recalled from Iowa in June.



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