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Starlin Castro says hot prospect Javy Baez ‘has to be here — soon’

Updated: August 3, 2014 11:49PM



LOS ANGELES — Starlin ­Castro wasn’t happy about being out of the lineup Sunday, even though he was told to expect it the night before.

But it gave him time to mull some of the other missing parts to the Cubs’ lineup these days — specifically, middle infielder Javy Baez, who hit his 22nd and 23rd home runs Sunday for Class AAA Iowa.

“I don’t know when, but he has to be here — soon,” Castro said.

Castro joined the growing clubhouse chorus calling for the chance to see what the Cubs’ No. 2 prospect can do in the big leagues down the stretch for a team that just had its roster blown up again in July.

Asked to compare the potential of Baez, 21, having the same impact he did when he broke in at 20 four years ago, Castro said, “He has the ability; he has the talent. He can do the same thing.”

Maybe not the home run and six RBI that Castro recorded in his debut. But the kind of production that puts him in the big leagues to stay once he gets there, Castro said.

And not just Baez, but Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and some of the other top prospects Castro and teammates saw in big-league camp this spring.

“Those guys we’ve got in the minor leagues, when they come in here, they’ve got the ability and the talent to be there all their career,” he said.

Meanwhile, Castro said he’s focusing on a strong finish to the season personally and for the team. He delivered a two-run, pinch-hit single in a three-run eighth inning during the Cubs’ 7-3 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday. It was the only hit in the inning, which started with Brandon League walking the first three Cubs hitters.

Castro said a July slump and power outage that contributed to the decision to sit him for the first time this season — just ahead of the team’s day off Monday — might be over.

“I don’t really need it,” he said of the day off. “But I can’t control it.”

Castro was removed for pinch runner Travis Wood, triggering social-media speculation he might be hurt. But manager Rick Renteria said it was just part of the plan to give him as much of a day off as possible, and Castro said he was fine as he reclined in his clubhouse chair after the game.

If anything, he hopes he’s more relaxed as he moves past a July that ­included a 16-for-87 skid over 22 games in which he had just two extra-base hits and six RBI despite hitting every day in the cleanup spot.

His average went from .290 to .268 — his OPS from .807 to .738 — in that stretch.

“It was really tough,” said Castro, who hasn’t homered since
June 20.

“He’s been probably trying to pull the ball a little bit more than normal,” Renteria said. “Maybe he’s trying to force it a little bit. Which is why we need to give him a blow. That’s part of it.”

His hit Sunday made him 7-for-12 in three August games.

“I’m moving forward,” said the three-time All-Star. “The last two months, I’m going to be ready to finish really strong.”

And if he gets a certain new young teammate or two to help pump some energy into things down the stretch as the team tries to springboard toward next year, all the better.

“It’s really important to finish strong, not only for me, but the team,” he said. “Because when you can finish strong, you come into next year with a better [mindset].”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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