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Starlin’s slump could signal shift

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Illustrated cover boy Starlin Castro nearly got a day on
the bench Wednesday because of deepening struggles at
the plate.

And regardless of whether he’s in the lineup when the Cubs open a rugged homestand against Cincinnati on Friday, his days as a No. 3 hitter could
be numbered, at least in the short run.

Castro, whose fourth-inning single Wednesday snapped an 0-for-13 skid, went 5-for-33 as the Cubs’ platoon No. 3 hitter over the last two weeks, and manager Mike Quade said he’ll quit using him there if the struggles continue.

‘‘Anytime a guy starts to struggle, if you’re ­doing your job at my end, you start to think, ‘OK, what adjustments can I make?’ ’’ said Quade, who had Castro leading of Wednesday against left-hander Ted Lilly.

Castro is in a 6-for-42 slide as the Cubs head home from their West Coast trip and would have gotten a mental breather Wednesday if not for a three-hit day against Lilly 12 days ago.

‘‘Watching his offensive issues the last two weeks, it makes you think, ‘OK, he could use a
day,’ ’’ Quade said. ‘‘Now it’s picking a spot. [Wednesday] wasn’t the day for me.’’

Beyond just the Castro question, what the Cubs do with the No. 3 spot in the order could be especially significant as their schedule takes a steep upward change in direction over the next two weeks.

Quade is looking hard at what to do with that spot as the team heads home.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m still juggling.’’

Even after a three-run homer and walk from Marlon Byrd as the No. 3 hitter Wednesday, the Cubs are still hitting just .233 with only 10 RBI from their No. 3 hitters — among the lowest three-hole production in the majors.

Byrd’s homer was the Cubs’ first from that spot.

If he’s starting to get hot (7-for-18 in last five games), he could be at least a short-term answer to the troublesome spot in the order on a daily ­basis again.

‘‘We’ll see what happens in the Cincinnati ­series,’’ Quade said. ‘‘We’ll take a day off and look at everything.’’

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