Upon reviewing the tape from Sunday night’s game against the Cardinals, manager Mike Quade has decided to give shortstop Starlin Castro a “mental day off” against the Braves on Monday.
In truth, it’s a benching.
Castro has been accused of a lack of focus several times during his age-21 season, and ESPN focused on it a couple of times last night, once pointing out how he had his back turned as James Russell was delivering a pitch.
ESPNChicago has the quotes:
“I was really disappointed and surprised, very surprised,” Quade said after watching the video of the game. “But it’s something from Day 1 focus-wise. It’s something, to be honest with you, that he has to work on. With his talent, that’s the toughest challenge for him.
“It’s simply not acceptable, not good. He feels terrible. I talked to him today, and we are giving him a day. After seeing last night, you have to make his concentration a priority. Getting him to concentrate pitch to pitch. He can do it, and we think he will. And we’ll make sure that happens.”
Castro figures to be back at shortstop tomorrow, and he’ll remain the Cubs’ shortstop long after Quade is gone as the team’s manager. Still, it seems like the right call from Quade here. For all of his talent, Castro still needs to have a few lessons pounded into his head.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.