04/03/11 8:00 PM ET
Castro triples twice from leadoff spot
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Castro drew a walk in the first inning, hit two triples and singled in the Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Pirates on Sunday. Cubs manager Mike Quade didn't want the shortstop to change a thing about his approach even though he was batting first.
"It doesn't matter the spot he puts me in because I want to play baseball, and that's it," Castro said.
The only other time Castro led off for the Cubs was last Aug. 8 against the Reds. In three games this year, Castro is 8-for-13 and has scored four runs. He's the first Cubs player to hit two triples in a game since Mike Fontenot did so May 29, 2010, against the Cardinals.
Quade talked to both Castro and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo before making the switch. Kosuke Fukudome led off Friday, and Jeff Baker played the role Saturday.
"I want [Castro] to change nothing," Quade said prior to Sunday's game. "I think he understands that. I'm asking him to lead off today. He'll be back in the two-hole tomorrow almost for certain. We don't have a prototypical leadoff guy, and when [Fukudome's] in the lineup, he's our best guy. He's the best on-base percentage guy since we arrived here.
"This is about how good Starlin's become and the mix of the players I have in the lineup today."
Where Castro eventually ends up in the lineup is still to be determined. There was talk that he could bat third someday.
"He's got the ability to be a real special player both offensively and defensively," Quade said. "If he reaches his potential, why not in the three-hole one day?"
Castro, who turned 21 on March 24, is still developing as a player and a person. He's worked daily with infield coach Ivan DeJesus on his footwork, and his throws have been better this season.
"I think he's grown up leaps and bounds since last year," Quade said of the youngster, who batted .300 last season, his rookie year.
"Since Day One, since he showed up at Spring Training, we had a rough couple of days to start the games, but his work habits have been great," Quade said. "Growing up is a lot more than performance. He's maturing in a hurry."
Castro has impressed his new teammates.
"Unbelievable," Carlos Pena said. "The sky's the limit for a kid like that. I love his makeup, the way he thinks. He's way beyond his years. He's very mature, very humble and has a very bright future."
How far has Castro come? After Sunday's game, DeJesus was present to act as interpreter but was needed only to clarify the questions. Castro answered in English.
"I feel more comfortable because right now, I'm a rookie, but now people and players don't see me as a rookie," he said. "I have a little more respect because I have a little more experience. I feel really good."
And that's how he's playing, too.
"Any place you put him, he looks good, because he has so much talent," Alfonso Soriano said. "He can bat leadoff, second, third -- any place you put him, he'll do his job because he has so much talent."
Cramps not expected to sideline Big Z
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano had no lingering effects from the cramping in his right hand that forced him out of Saturday's game and was not expected to miss his next start.
Zambrano, who did not get a decision on Saturday in the Cubs' 5-3 win over the Pirates, will start on Friday in Milwaukee, and with the off-day on Thursday, he'll get an extra day.
The right-hander felt some cramping in his hand when he walked to the mound to warm up in the seventh on Saturday. He served up a leadoff homer to Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones and had a 2-2 count to Ronny Cedeno before athletic trainer Mark O'Neal went to the mound. Zambrano was then lifted.
"I don't know what makes a spasm happen, I just hope I don't get them," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "After 100 [pitches] and change, he can get one. It's something we'll have to pay attention to and monitor."
Zambrano has had problems with cramping in his forearm in years past but had no problems at the end of last season or in Spring Training.
Cubs infielder Blake DeWitt delivered the game-winning hit on Saturday but was on the bench during the club's 5-4 loss on Sunday. DeWitt will get back in the starting lineup, manager Mike Quade said. "I never rule anything out," Quade said. "We'll mix and match and move people around and give people opportunities. [Darwin] Barney had such a good spring, he'll get a very serious look. Blake will work like heck to give himself every opportunity to play." ... Quade had his choice of Kosuke Fukudome or DeWitt against Pirates right-hander Joel Hanrahan but opted for right-handed-hitting Reed Johnson in the ninth on Sunday. "Reed's a little gamer and I thought, 'You're facing a pretty tough closer out there' and I thought I'd give him a chance," Quade said. Johnson struck out. ... Some of the best advice Starlin Castro got was from teammate Aramis Ramirez. "Aramis tells me all the time, 'Pay attention nine innings, concentrate for nine innings and you'll be good,'" Castro said. ... Matt Garza said pitching at Wrigley Field wasn't any different than pitching anywhere else. "I've been pitching in the big leagues for parts of five years and pitching in baseball games since I was 8," said Garza, who struck out 12 batters in his Wrigley debut on Sunday. "The dimensions don't change. The bases are 90 feet, the home runs are over the fence, and the mound is 60 feet 6 inches so I kept doing my thing. It doesn't change." ... Cubs pitchers gave up 16 hits, all singles, for the first time since serving up 16 singles May 7, 1964, at San Francisco. Garza gave up a career-high 12 hits. Since 1919, he's one of four pitchers to serve up 12 hits and strike out at least 12 batters in the same game and first to do so since Nolan Ryan gave up 13 hits and fanned 12 on Sept. 23, 1973, at Minnesota.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.