Theo Talks Rizzo and Castro, We Listen

Two things that have been talked about a lot lately have been the Anthony Rizzo promotion, and Starlin Castro and his inability to focus which led many people to question if the Cubs should trade the budding superstar.  Theo Epstein addressed both of those issues within the last 24 hours, here are the highlights.

On how important Castro is to the future – “Being around him now and seeing the kind of kid that he is and seeing some of the progress that he’s made defensively, (I) actually have even more conviction about his importance to us and the fact that we’re going to build with him and build around him in a certain sense,” Epstein said Wednesday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “He is 22. To me the biggest issue coming in to the season was can he play major league shortstop? We felt like he was gifted enough physically to do it, and he would have to make a few fundamental adjustments. There were some high-profile examples of him losing focus so we wanted to get a handle on that.

On Castro’s ability to play SS at this level / adjustments – “He hasn’t been perfect but for the most part he’s made the fundamental adjustments that we’ve asked. He’s moving his feet much better, especially on routine ground balls, and really to me looks outstanding at shortstop. He’s still had a couple of instances where he’s lost his focus. That’s going to continue to be an area of emphasis for him, but this kid cares, and I’m convinced that he’s going to get there and his tools are going to show up consistently on an everyday basis as he refines his mental game.

“I think we’ve got the right answer, the answer we were looking for to playing shortstop fundamentally at the big-league level.”

On Castro’s approach at the plate – “At the plate he’s a work in progress,” Epstein said. “He’s going to be one of those kids who gains discipline as he moves into his prime. He’s still five years away from his prime. Twenty-seven is the age which most players reach their prime in the big leagues. As he starts to hit for more power, which will happen as he fills out, he’s going to be pitched to more carefully. It will be on him to make that adjustment and be a little bit more selective at the plate. You’ll see his slugging and on-base increase.

“I’m convinced this kid is going to be a really, really good player for us.”

Theo also had thoughts on Rizzo, and most fans will be very please with what he had to say.

On Rizzo getting a ‘full’ season at Triple-A – “We do like our players if at all possible to get a full season of at-bats at the Triple-A level,” Epstein said Wednesday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “And by full season I really mean 162 games because that’s what they are going to face at the big-league level where the season is six months long instead of five months in the minor leagues. He’s getting there. He’s getting real close to having that full season under his belt.”

On Rizzo’s approach at the plate and mechanics – “People might look at the numbers and think this guy is a natural great hitter,” Epstein said. “He’s got a little bit of a higher maintenance load in his swing where he tinkers with his hands sometimes. He’s done a really nice job of finding a comfortable hand position and found some rhythm to his load that he’s able to repeat on a consistent basis.

“His mental approach is outstanding as well, kind of taking a day-to-day routine with him to the ballpark which is something he’ll need when he gets up to the big leagues because slumps, especially for young players, are inevitable at the big-league level. I’m proud of all the progress he’s made, and he’s getting real close to being ready.

On finding Rizzo playing time in the majors – “That said we don’t necessarily have a spot for him, an obvious spot at the big-league level so that will require some adjustments and when the time is right to make those adjustments we’ll make them.”

These are very encouraging things to hear from the man in charge of the Cubs.  Rizzo seems closer than ever to being called up and Castro looks like he is a piece to build around, not trade bait.

Thanks for reading,
– George