Castro benched, so what's next for Cubs shortstop?

  • The Cubs have much invested in shortstop Starlin Castro, who was benched by manager Dale Sveum on Saturday after another mental lapse on defense.

    The Cubs have much invested in shortstop Starlin Castro, who was benched by manager Dale Sveum on Saturday after another mental lapse on defense. Associated Press

Updated 8/17/2013 9:16 PM

Cubs manager Dale Sveum made his statement Saturday, yanking shortstop Starlin Castro from the game for a mental error.

Now comes the harder, and more important, part: building Castro back up.


For that, it will be up to Castro, the coaching staff and Cubs management, which has so much invested in the 23 year-old.

Castro admittedly fell asleep in the fifth inning of Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Cardinals, and he did it before 41,981 fans, many of them wearing St. Louis red.

With the bases loaded and one out, Matt Carpenter lifted a pop fly into short left field. Castro backpedaled and called off left fielder Junior Lake. The infield fly rule was in effect, so the batter was automatically out. Castro caught the ball, but he put his head down.

Jon Jay, the runner on third base, alertly scampered home for a run on the rare sacrifice fly to the shortstop. That made the game 2-0. The Cardinals didn't score again that inning, but when Castro came off the field, Sveum met him in the dugout and told him he was done for the day.

"The situation is, obviously, we had a big blunder there, and (Castro) lost track of what was going on, for whatever reason," Sveum said. "I pulled him out of the game."

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Castro met reporters at his locker and took responsibility.

"It's my fault," he said. "I apologize, especially to Woody (pitcher Travis Wood) and my teammates and the coaches. It's my fault. I had to pay for that.

"I knew the outs and everything. I just put my head down, like a mental mistake. I don't really want to say any excuse for that.

"It's my mistake, and that's why I paid for that. I feel really, really bad that happened, especially with Woody pitching good."

This has not been a banner year for Castro, whom team president Theo Epstein gave a seven-year, $60 million contract extension last season. Castro has continued to make mental mistakes, even as his fielding at shortstop has improved, and he is not hitting as he had his first two-plus seasons with the Cubs from 2010.

After going 0-for-2 Saturday, he is 0-for-16 on the current homestand, and his batting line is .244/.278/.345. The. 278 on-base percentage is a far cry from the .347 it was in his rookie season and the .341 it was in 2011.


"It's bad," he said. "It's an unbelievable year, especially for me. I never really had those kinds of years like that, especially with that mistake like today and my struggles at home plate.

"It's really tough. I don't put my head down. I know I can be good and finish strong."

This was the first time Sveum had done an in-game benching of a player in his almost two years as manager of the Cubs. (He added he hadn't gotten as far as to say whether Castro would play Sunday.)

Castro's inattentiveness has been addressed often, both with the player and in public with the media.

"There are only so many meetings and so many things you can say, and obviously, when you've played this much baseball it gets to the point where you have to do it yourself," Sveum said, putting most of the onus on Castro to fix things.

There's the fine line. Castro is still a young player. In fact, he's all of three days older than rookie Lake. On the other hand, he has almost four years in the big leagues, and plays such as Saturday's should not continue happening.

"There's no question that it's up to both of us, but it's always up to the individual," Sveum said. "He's played in the big leagues long enough, and we've had our discussions. There comes a point in time where you have to cross that bridge and get to the next level.

"He feels as bad as anybody. He knows what happened. He feels awful right now."

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