Slumping Castro says patience at plate has been detrimental
BY GORDON WITTENMYER August 20, 2013 10:44PM
Updated: September 22, 2013 6:40AM
Starlin Castro doesn’t see dead people — not yet, anyway.
But he does hear voices. Too many voices this season. And he’s pretty sure that’s why the rest of us have seen a dead season from him at the plate.
“This year, there’s been too many things to think about,” said Castro, who was displeased to learn he was batting eighth for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 2010.
“You’re not supposed to think [at the plate],” he said before the Cubs’ 4-2 loss Tuesday to the Washington Nationals. “Sometimes you have a tough season and you want to please everybody. But when you listen to everybody, it’s not right. You have to listen to the things that can help you, not everything.”
That would go a long way toward explaining manager Dale Sveum’s diagnosis that Castro’s hitting problems start with his inability to catch up to fastballs.
Those close to Castro have said that the Cubs’ efforts to tweak his sometimes too-aggressive approach have gotten into his head in a counterproductive way.
An earnest, eager-to-please kid with uncommon ability to make contact with major-league pitches — and motivated to listen after the team gave him a seven-year deal last summer — says he finally has “figured out” the real problem.
“I like to be aggressive, swinging the bat [early in the count],” said the shortstop who rode that approach to two All-Star appearances and a National League-leading 207 hits in 2011. “Swing at strikes. See good pitches and be aggressive and hit them. See the ball and hit it. When you come to the plate, you don’t have any idea because you listen to too many things. That’s what I’ve been doing. There’s six weeks left. I just want to be aggressive and be me.”
Aside from coaching, the Cubs’ efforts with Castro have included Sveum’s perform-or-risk-demotion oration in April, shuffles up and down the lineup, occasional days off and votes of confidence.
“The way we look at it is, he’s having a down year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday. “There’s no reason in the world to think he can’t get back to playing the way he did as a 21-year-old.”
That didn’t make seeing his name in the No. 8 spot on the lineup card Tuesday — three days after being yanked from the game for a defensive lapse — any easier.
“I don’t like it there. It’s tough,” Castro said. “[Sveum] asked me if I like it. I told him no. … But I don’t put my head down. I have to stay aggressive.”
By the time he struck out on three pitches in the fifth — part of an 0-for-4 night)— he was 1-for-25 during this homestand.
Sveum said Castro’s struggles, as well as the matchups involving some of the other hitters in the lineup, left the last spot for Castro.
“It’s just one of those things right now where it’s the only fit,” Sveum said.
Castro leads Cubs full-time starters with 3.9 pitches per plate appearances, a career high. (Nate Schierholtz is at 3.96 in almost full-time play.) But buying into a more patient approach hasn’t worked.
Castro doesn’t blame the change in hitting coaches, even though he was successful under former hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. And he praises current hitting coach James Rowson.
What this season has done is make him stronger, he said.
“For sure. Especially because this has never happened in my life,” he said. “When I get out of this, this last six weeks, finish strong and come back next year and be ready … I know what it is now.”