It was the best of teams, it was the worst of teams.
It was a tale of two Cubs, each seemingly going in a different direction.
One Cub had the kind of night that reminded many why he was once viewed, and paid, as a core piece for the organization going forward.
The other Cub, unfortunately, reminded most of the mistake the organization may have made in doing the same with him.
Patrick Mooney had just posed the question of whether Edwin Jackson could still salvage the deal the Cubs gave him a little over a year ago. After a pretty efficient first outing in his season debut, Jackson looked like the potential bust of last season again tonight.
Jackson struggled early and often, digging his team a 4-0 1st-inning hole. Enter Starlin Castro. I had just mentioned recently that it looked as if Castro was starting to find himself at the plate. He has had the look of a hitter who knows what he wants at the plate; he's looking for a pitch he can do something with. He did some things with a couple of pitches last night, as a matter of fact. Castro spoke to Mark Gonzales after the game about his approach:
"I'm trying to get my feeling again at home plate, and that's what I'm doing right now," said Castro, who extended his hitting streak to five games and is batting .450 (9-for-20) during that span after starting the season 0-for-9.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball on the barrel every time. I don't want to try to hit a home run. I know the homers are coming. I didn't even try (to hit a homer), and they come."
It doesn’t always look right, mind you. In Castro's first AB, he lunged at ball four to poke a hit into right field, beating the shift. Yet, that is exaclty who Castro is as a hitter: so much plate coverage.
Castro’s night only got better from there. He battled Pirates starter Charlie Morton (who doesn’t get beat by the long ball often) and took him deep, twice. Both blasts were impressive.
For Jackson, Rick Renteria says the Cubs starter elevated his pitches much more tonight than he did in his first start in Pittsburgh. Its a shame of sorts; the Cubs starters have kept their team in the game without the benefit of run support so far this season. Yet, on a night when the Cubs offense again looked effective in back to back games, their starter let them down.
Theo Epstein’s front office hasn’t done much wrong up until now. However, making a mid-to-back-of-the-rotation candidate (Jackson) their first big free agent signing (four-year, $52 million contract) seemed an odd move after losing out on Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez, a clear top-of-the-rotation talent, would have most certainly been a major piece of the core. Jackson will now likely get dealt in a hurry if he straightens out.
Speaking of core pieces, Castro’s stock also took quite a hit the last two seasons. However, with new skipper Renteria seemingly pushing the right buttons, and maybe finding a comfortable spot in the line up for him (sixth), Starlin is looking once more like the phenom who electrified Cubdom with 6 RBI in his debut (when he became the first MLB player born in the 90s).
Renteria surprisingly said postgame that he may move his shortstop back up to the two hole. Either way, Castro looks to be focused on getting back in the spotlight, and back into the plan. Much of the spring, the talk on Twitter had been focused on the other shortstop in the organization, one Javy Baez.
Tonight, even in Twitterverse, it was all about the Star(lin) of the game.
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