Friday, May 7, 2010

All hail new Cubbie savior Castro

You know you're a cynic when the first thought that pops into your head after hearing the Cubs just called up shortstop savior Starlin Castro is: "Well, now a lineup that was too right-handed before gets even more right-handed. Good luck with that."

I enjoyed watching Castro when I was in Arizona covering spring training. Other than apparently being allergic to drawing walks, there were few things he didn't do well. He has annihilated the ball at Double-A - think lots of singles and doubles, kids, not home runs - and he obviously has tremendous tools.

Even though he kept calling him "Starling" (and, a couple of times, "Sterling"), Lou Piniella fell in love with Castro in Mesa. Lou and Jim Hendry felt they had to do something after watching their Unlovable Losers score 5 runs total during a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh against the worst pitching staff in the majors - the same noodle-arms that served up 36 runs in a three-game series to the Brewers.

Calling up Castro, who just turned 20, sends a nice message ... but they didn't just do it for effect. He will play. Ryan Theriot moves back to second base, where he belongs.

My wife won't like it because lilliputian Mike Fontenot is her favorite player - he's the only professional athlete my 5-foot-3 bride can stare in the eye - but he clearly isn't an everyday big-league second baseman.

On the other hand, Fontenot was one of the few left-handed hitters Piniella could put in the lineup. Piniella now is down to one: Kosuke Fukudome. And Cubbie fans fooled by his good numbers must have forgotten the way The Fook turned hot starts into shockingly bad finishes each of his first two years in the majors. As the pressure mounts, expect lots of Fukudome's patented spin-a-rama whiffs.

The Cubs still miss Jim Edmonds, who was far more of a catalyst in 2008 than most want to admit. Legitimate contenders need a couple of left-handed hitters capable of taking the ball out of the yard - and capable of making the opponent have to pitch differently. Period.

I don't want to hear that most of the right-handed Cubbies traditionally do well against righty pitchers. Every manager, including Piniella, knows it's never good to let the opposing pitcher see nothing but righties one after another after another.

The lineup most days: Theriot ... Fukudome ... Lee ... Ramirez ... Byrd ... Soriano ... Soto ... Castro.

That's R-L-R-R-R-R-R-R. Good luck finding any championship team of recent vintage with so little balance.

P.S.: I know Lou has dropped Ramirez to sixth. But the simple fact is that if Ramirez and Lee don't start hitting, the Cubs are dead even in the unlikely event that a 20-year-old kid lives up to the over-the-top, Corey-Pattersonian hype.

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