ARLINGTON -- Aramis Ramirez was back in the Cubs' lineup Saturday as the designated hitter. But the player who may be more important to the team is Starlin Castro.
The rookie shortstop was in the No. 2 spot in the lineup for the second game of the Cubs' Interleague series against the Rangers. The team is 4-0 when Castro bats second.
"He's been consistent," Lou Piniella said of Castro, who was batting .365 and has reached base via a hit, walk or error in his first 14 games. Castro hit his second career homer in the third inning.
Castro is the youngest player in the Major Leagues, and obviously, the youngest shortstop. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus is second youngest at 21 years, 268 days.
On Friday, Castro was obviously upset with himself when he lined out to right field for the second out of the ninth inning in Chicago's 2-1 loss.
"The last two games, I've watched in the ninth inning -- he's made a couple outs and he's not happy with himself," Piniella said of Castro. "That's a nice sign. He competes. The kid competes. I'm impressed with him."
"To be so young, he still keeps the ball in the middle of the field," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Castro. "Usually those young guys come up here and they're wailing. He keeps the ball in the middle of the field."
Ramirez did not play Friday because of a sore left thumb that's been nagging him.
"He says he can [be the designated hitter]," Piniella said. "We've got him in there as the DH, and let's hope he swings the bat."
Maddux visits Texas, mentors Minor Leaguers
ARLINGTON -- Greg Maddux took advantage of the Cubs' Interleague trip to Texas to catch up with his brother, Mike, who is the pitching coach for the Rangers. More important to the Cubs, Maddux has spent some time with the Minor League pitchers to share some advice.
Now a special advisor to the team, Maddux spent one week with the Class A Daytona team and will get a promotion to Double-A next week. When a four-time Cy Young Award winner talks, people listen.
However, he's chosen to sit in the dugout, not the stands.
"I want to watch the game," Maddux said Saturday. "You sit in the stands sometimes, and you don't want to be rude to people, but you want to watch the game."
Apparently, he's encountered a few autograph seekers. Plus, sitting in the dugout is how Maddux has watched baseball for most of his life.
After this weekend, he'll head to Birmingham, Ala., to catch up with the Cubs' Double-A team, the Tennessee Smokies. The feedback he's gotten from the Minor League pitchers has been good so far.
"They're cool," Maddux said. "They want to learn, they want to move up, they want to get better. Hopefully I've had an experience or two that might help that. That's all you try to do is try to help the players help themselves. When they start learning how to help themselves, they get better faster."
And getting the chance to see his brother?
"We told some war stories," Maddux said.
Piniella in no rush to call team meeting
ARLINGTON -- The Cubs have been inconsistent, but manager Lou Piniella doesn't feel a need to call a team meeting. He's dealt with players one on one.
"I've had conversations with these guys," the manager said Saturday. "Words -- what counts is how you play out there. I've talked to the guys as individuals on the things we need to do. If it was as simple as having a team meeting, I'd have a team meeting every day."
Of course, if Piniella did that, the players would probably grow weary of it.
"Team meetings are overdone," he said. "You've got to play. You've got to compete. When the umpires say, 'Play ball,' you've got to go out there and compete every day and not give in.
"All the words and so forth, they sound good. You've got to get it done on the field. I don't remember -- when I played -- that many team meetings from good managers I played for."
And Piniella isn't the only one talking to the Cubs' players. The coaches have cornered them, as well.
"We just have to get it done on the field more consistently," Piniella said. "You talk about our hitting; we've hit the ball. We just haven't hit at opportune times."
The Cubs rank fourth in the National League in batting entering Saturday, but they're 15th in runners left on base.
"We've fallen short when it comes to delivering the key blow, and that's when you have to compete more," Piniella said. "The consistency factor is the thing."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.