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updated: 6/24/2013 3:46 PM

A catchall on the Cubs' struggles so far

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  • In addition to his struggles at the plate, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has a team-high 14 errors this season.

      In addition to his struggles at the plate, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has a team-high 14 errors this season.
    Associated Press

 
 

While the Blackhawks were trying to win the Stanley Cup Monday, the Cubs took the day off and continued to slide under the radar.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the hockey season will end closer to Independence Day than to Memorial Day, and football training camp is right around the next bend in the road.

The Cubs would love for you not to be paying attention, given the way things have been going for them again this season.

If you were caught up in the Bulls' playoffs against the Nets and Heat or have been captivated by the Blackhawks' run, you might have missed a few developments with the Cubs. Fortunately, we've been chronicling them every step and misstep of the way.

Let's take a look at what's been happening on just a few fronts.

Starting rotation:

The Cubs are getting pretty nice work from their starting pitchers. As they head into Tuesday night's series opener in Milwaukee, the Cubs have a starting staff that boasts an ERA of 3.77, seventh best in the National League and ninth best in the majors.

The starters are 22-32, but that's reflective of the team's overall record of 31-43, which has been a product of poor hitting, bad defense and bullpen blowups.

In other words, whenever a Cubs starter takes the mound, the team feels pretty good about its chances.

"Absolutely," said Jeff Samardzija, the ace of the staff. "It's exciting when you're not pitching to come out every day and have the chance to watch somebody that has an opportunity to go out and dominate a game like a lot of these guys have done every time out.

"We have a lot of faith in our rotation. As a rotation, we're really tight. We share a lot of information. And we kind of feed off of each other, which has been huge."

Samardzija heads a rotation that also features Matt Garza, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman.

Question is, how long will this rotation remain in one piece? Chances are, not for long, which means the Cubs could be headed for a whole bunch more losing after the July 31 trading deadline.

Garza and Feldman are the two prime candidates to be traded. If Garza goes, he probably won't be able to take his personal catcher, Dioner Navarro, with him.

The Castro situation:

If you haven't been watching, you might think: For sure, Starlin Castro is headed to his third straight All-Star Game, right?

Not quite.

It will come as a surprise that Castro has severely regressed, to use a hot-button word that's been in the news lately.

His batting line is a shocking .228/.264/.318 with 3 home runs, 24 RBI, 12 walks and 61 strikeouts in 311 at-bats.

In April, manager Dale Sveum indicated young players such as Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo could go to the minor leagues, or at least that's how it was interpreted by nearly everyone who heard him.

Now, Sveum stubbornly refuses to give Castro so much as a day off to allow him to clear his head as he did with Rizzo recently. Castro was 0-for-4 in Sunday's 14-6 victory over the Astros. He now has 13 hits in his last 98 at-bats for a sickly .132 batting average.

In the field, Castro has looked lost at times, too. He committed 4 errors in the three weekend games and now has a team-high 14.

The closer situation:

Things were going to be fine this year. The Cubs were going to trade Carlos Marmol and allow Kyuji Fujikawa to slide into the closer's role after giving the 32-year-old a two-year, $9.5 million contract.

That hasn't worked out so hot, either.

Fujikawa had Tommy John surgery, and the Cubs can only hope he'll throw a pitch for them sometime next year.

Marmol has been Marmol. His implosion in New York on June 16 led to the most devastating loss of the season after Sveum used him in a save situation.

The last time Marmol pitched at Wrigley Field was June 13. Sveum did not use him against the Astros over the weekend, and with the Cubs in a stretch of 16 of 19 on the road, the next time Marmol can pitch before the home fans will be July 5.

Maybe they will have forgotten by then. But probably not.

• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112.

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