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May. 7 2010 - 8:56 pm | 182 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Hey, folks, calm down — let Cubs’ Starlin Castro break in without pressure

Corey Patterson

Corey Patterson in his first exile stop as an Oriole; care must be taken to make sure the same kind of fate does not happen to Starlin Castro (image via Wikipedia).

When the record of Starlin Castro’s big-league career is written, you hope the three-run homer he belted in his first big-league at bat on Friday (May 7) isn’t the worst thing to ever happen to him.

And then a bases-loaded triple two at-bats later. Who’s penning this  — a second-rate scriptwriter?

How can Castro top that act? Slug a walk-off homer in Game 7 of the World Series?

Many posts ago, I argued against a promotion of wunderkind shortstop Castro to the Cubs this season. Given the franchise’s record of impatience, and mishandling and over-hyping top prospects, I figured too much time in the minors was better than one day too less.

But now that Castro’s here,  as a very young catalyst to a sluggish lineup, keep your emotional distance, inhabitants of Cubs Universe. Don’t expect too much of him, don’t tout him as a savior, leave him be to get his feet wet in the majors.

You know what happened to Kevin Orie, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie and a slew of others. Too much attention on one guy as be-all, end-all of a position-prospect-challenged farm system. Throw in impatience with the likes of Lou Brock and Oscar Gamble, both promoted well before their time in the 1960s. Or the memories of Shawon Dunston, touted as the next Ernie Banks before he even knew what the original big-league Shawon Dunston could be like.

Castro worked the count deep before he sliced his homer to right at Great American Ballpark. Let the kid take pitches  the majority of the time and he’ll convince me he wasn’t promoted four months too soon. Let Castro not throw the ball all over the ballpark, and I’ll know he’ll be able to handle his position defensively and not toss games away. Let him be happy and not feel the weight of the world on him in pressurized Wrigley Field, and he’ll prove he can be a winning ballplayer.

From the Cubs’ perspective, the move was necessary. The lineup with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, middle of the order staples since 2004, is dangerously close to moving past its expiration date much like milk that’s about to sour. The Cubs, like the White Sox in recent years, have too many power types in the batting order. They desperately need some dash and speed.  Fresh blood is desperately needed.

The infield defense will be tightened up if Castro proves not to be an error machine. Ryan Theriot was game but below average defensively with his range and arm at shortstop. The Riot was the proverbial minor-league shortstop who was an acceptable big-league second baseman. Now as he moves into his 30s, he can provide dependability at second while Castro does the acrobatics at short.

The bottom line is keeping expectations away from Castro. Over-eager fans called Oldsmobile Park in Lansing, Mich. in the summer of 1999, urging that Patterson be promoted directly from Class A to the Cubs, if only to use his speed in center even if he couldn’t hit yet. Two years earlier, Orie was supposed to plug a 25-year-old hole at third left by Ron Santo’s departure. And way back in 1962, a befuddled Brock didn’t know whether to swing full for power, as suggested by one coach, or drag bunt, as counseled by another, during the Cubs’ wacky College of Coaches scheme.

If Castro hits .260, shows some improvement at the plate, works hard with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and is somewhat steady at shortstop, that’s a fabulous rookie year. No more, no less.

His memorable debut was the bonus. There’s a lot of people who can screw up this kid, on and off the field, and in the stands. Make sure this time history does not repeat itself as it has for the team as a whole for 101 seasons.


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  1. collapse expand

    Too late for a quiet debut now.

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