Castellanos good fit from start for Chicago Cubs

Your intrepid reporter approached Chicago Cubs outfielder Nicholas Castellanos with an important question during the last homestand:

“Not that you read the papers, but for print purposes, do you prefer ‘Nick' or ‘Nicholas?'” went the question.

Castellanos didn't hesitate.

“Nick is OK, save you some space,” he replied.

Castellanos has made a good impression on just about everybody — and we in the media don't really count — since coming to the Cubs in a July 31 trade with the Detroit Tigers for a pair of minor-league pitchers.

In 11 games, he is 17-for-46 for a line of .370/.408/.761 with 4 homers, 6 doubles and 6 RBI.

“He's a ballplayer,” said outfielder Jason Heyward, who has enjoyed a resurgent season. “He wants to do everything he can from before the game to after the game to try and be a winner.”

Anytime a team is in contention, it will add a veteran or veterans to help get the team to and through the postseason.

In trying to find a comp for Castellanos, the first player who came to mind for me was Kenny Lofton in 2003.

Lofton, who came to the Cubs in a steal of a deal with the Pirates, wasn't as media-friendly as Castellanos, but that doesn't matter. He provided playing ability, veteran leadership and a bit of an edge to the ‘03 team, and he helped that club to the National League championship series. The Cubs also got Aramis Ramirez from the Pirates in the Lofton deal, and he certainly helped, but he was a young, quiet, up-and-coming star at the time.

If the Cubs can finish it off, Castellanos may be a big reason.

As far as he is concerned, he is enjoying the move from the last-place Tigers to the first-place Cubs, especially at Wrigley Field.

“Incredible,” he said. “The more I talk about it is going to do it injustice. So I'm just going to leave it at incredible.

Mark your 2020 calendars:

The Cubs will open their 2020 season at Milwaukee on Thursday, March 26, with the Wrigley Field opener Monday, March 30, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Next year will mark the fifth season in a row and the 15th in the last 19 that the Cubs will open away from home. It will be their first season opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

The Cubs also will have earlier start times for weeknight home games before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. Instead of those games beginning at 7:05 p.m. they will begin at 6:40 p.m.

After three games at Milwaukee to begin 2020 (March 26, 28-29), the Cubs head to Chicago to begin a six-game, seven-day homestand with three games against the Pirates (March 30-April 1) and three against the Arizona Diamondbacks (April 3-5).

The 2020 schedule is highlighted by the club's first trip to London, England, to play a pair of games (as the visiting team) against the St. Louis Cardinals from June 13-14. That series will represent the end of a three-city, 11-day trip that begins with four games in Cincinnati (June 4-7) and continues with three games in Philadelphia (June 8-10). The Cubs series in London will be surrounded by three off-days on June 11, 12 and 15. The trip to London will represent the club's first games overseas since opening the 2000 season against the New York Mets in Tokyo.

The schedule also features interleague play against the American League East, plus the annual home-and-home with the White Sox, July 7-8 (at Guaranteed Rate Field) and July 20-21 (at Wrigley Field).

The Cubs' interleague schedule includes hosting three AL East opponents: the Baltimore Orioles (June 2-3), the Boston Red Sox (June 19-21) and the Tampa Bay Rays (July 3-5). The Cubs also travel to Baltimore (April 14-15), to New York (June 26-28) and to Toronto (Aug. 14-16).

Schwarber nears milestone:

Left fielder Kyle Schwarber enters Tuesday's series opener at Philadelphia with 99 career home runs in 450 career games played with the Cubs.

With his next homer, he'll be one of the quickest to 100 in a Cubs uniform. The leaders are:

Aramis Ramirez (423 games).

Hank Sauer (424)

Alfonso Soriano (451)

Andre Dawson (452)

Sammy Sosa (458)

Derrek Lee (482)

Kris Bryant (487)

Hack Wilson (491)

Ernie Banks (500)

Since the all-star break Schwarber has a line of .250/.355/.625 for an OPS of 980 to go with 9 homers.

Cubs breathing new life into Castellanos

'Jeopardy' star James Holzhauer pays a visit to Wrigley Field

Why it's past time for Cubs to give manager Maddon an extension

Scouting report: Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies

The Chicago Cubs will open their 2020 season on March 26 at Milwaukee. Associated Press/March 29, 2018
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