Starlin Castro AP

Alfonso Soriano says Starlin Castro needs to “concentrate more on the game”

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Starlin Castro wasn’t the only member of the Cubs who made mistakes in yesterday’s loss to the Reds at Wrigley Field. In fact, the Cubs committed five errors for the first time since 2006. But the 22-year-old was the focus after the game.

Castro, who has a history of mental lapses, committed a fielding error on a slow roller in the top of the third inning and was involved in a baserunning blunder in the bottom of the sixth. The gaffe on the basepaths was particularly facepalm-worthy. After Castro reached on a bloop single that nearly got him thrown out at first base for making a wide turn around the bag, he lost track of the ball on a single by Josh Vitters to right field and was thrown out at third base after being deked by Brandon Phillips at second base.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum initially didn’t rule out the possibility of benching Castro to send a message, but he was back in the lineup this afternoon following a closed-door meeting. Sveum wouldn’t really disclose what was said, but veteran outfielder Alfonso Soriano also met with Castro and told Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com that the young shortstop’s brain still needs to catch up with his obvious physical gifts.

“It can be hard (to be so young), but we play baseball because we love baseball and that’s what we do for a living; that’s our career,” Soriano said. “We have to prepare 100 percent. Like I said to him yesterday, it’s not only catch the ball and throw the ball and hit the ball. This game is more mental. You have to prepare mentally and physically too. Not just physical. You have to prepare yourself mentally and all those little errors mentally cannot happen in this game.”

“He’ll be fine, but like I said, he needed motivation,” Soriano said. “He has to concentrate more on the game because it’s only a 3-3½ hour game. After that you can do whatever you want. You have plenty of time.”

Castro, who is now in his third year in the big leagues, entered play Saturday with a .275/.305/.417 batting line to go along with 11 home runs, 56 RBI and a .723 OPS. He is just 18-for-28 in stolen base attempts (his 10 caught stealings are tied with Willie Bloomquist of the Diamondbacks for the major league lead) while his 17 errors tie him with Dee Gordon of the Dodgers for the major league lead among shortstops.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.