Monday, August 22, 2011

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was held out of the starting lineup Monday night against Atlanta, one night after television cameras caught him not paying attention in the field as a pitch was thrown.

"It's a mental day off," Chicago manager Mike Quade said during a long pregame press conference at which Castro was pretty much the only topic of discussion.

"I was real disappointed. He understands that. We'll see how the next day or so goes. We'll take it one day at a time. He's got a lot of work to do in terms of bearing down and concentrating."

The pitch in question occurred during the sixth inning of Sunday night's 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. As reliever James Russell went into his motion and delivered to Daniel Descalso, Castro kicked at the dirt and then walked toward the outfield, never looking toward home plate when the pitch was thrown.

"When I saw Russ' pitch when he wasn't on board yet, that was the thing that got me more than anything," Quade said. "People stay loose different ways and approach each pitch different ways, but the fact that he wasn't prepared for Russ' pitch was the main thing."

ESPN aired a clip of the play the next inning and commentator Bobby Valentine spent nearly seven minutes haranguing Castro and the Cubs' inability to get him to focus. Quade said he didn't hear any of Valentine's comments.

"I don't listen to Bobby very much," Quade said. "I looked at everything with the mute on. That's kind of what I do. I don't want any outside influences. I want to know exactly what I see and make up my own decisions.

"As far as Bobby goes, I'm concerned about Starlin Castro. I'm not concerned at all about Bobby Valentine."

ESPN also showed close-ups of Castro in the field looking up at the sky, standing still with his glove off and chewing a nonstop stream of sunflower seeds. The 21-year-old Castro is leading the National League in hits, but Quade said age can't be used as an excuse.

"I was really disappointed and surprised, very surprised at him," Quade said. "It is something we've been after him about from Day 1, focus-wise. To be honest with you, with his talent, sometimes that's the toughest challenge for him. Not acceptable, not good. He feels terrible. Talked to him and we'll give him a day.

"The youth thing, from a focus standpoint, (can be tolerated) no more."

At one point, Quade was asked if Castro was going to be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder.

"You spend enough time around him, no one has given that a consideration," Quade said. "Let's just ask Cassie to concentrate and do a better job, get the most out of his ability."

An All-Star this season, Castro is hitting .308 and recently became the youngest Cubs player in more than 70 years to reach 300 career hits. Quade said that while the organization will be diligent in its development of Castro, it's ultimately up to the player.

"It's on Starlin to make this progress," Quade said. "He's got a coaching staff that cares about him. He's got all the things in place to do this and do this well."

Valentine suggested that behavior like Castro's can become a team "cancer" if it goes unchecked, observations that Quade said he could do without.

"That's why I watch and don't listen," Quade said. "There's a lot of experts out there. Everybody's got stuff figured out. I know how much time we've spent with the kid. I know how much we've addressed these things. And I also know that it doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes, it takes a long time. You don't quit working with guys or addressing things until it gets done. What people come in and say on a short look, I'm really not too interested in it."


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