The intent of batting Starlin Castro eighth in the Cubs’ batting order for the first time since his brilliant rookie season wasn’t to send a message, but the placement of the enigmatic shortstop Tuesday night was another development in his struggling season.
“We’re all in this together, but I don’t care who you are,” manager Dale Sveum said before the Cubs lost to the Nationals 4-2. “The bottom line is … the production is coming from him. And the adjustments they have to make, whether they’re suggested from myself or (hitting coach) James Rowson or defensively from (coach) David Bell … it’s still up to the player to be able to apply what you have to talk about.”
Dropping Castro, 23, in the order was the latest in a series of setbacks for the two-time All-Star, who was pulled in the middle of Saturday’s game because of a lapse against the Cardinals before a national television audience.
Castro, who has one home run and three RBIs in the second half of the season, missed an opportunity to improve his standing by flying out to right with Donnie Murphy at third for the final out of the second inning.
The performance of Murphy, who had doubled to start the second, was just one of several reasons Sveum listed in his decision to drop Castro to the eighth spot.
The last time Castro batted eighth during the 2010 season, the Cubs’ lineup featured veterans Derrek Lee, Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez.
But against the Nationals, Sveum liked Darwin Barney’s versatility in the second spot and wanted left-handed hitter Brian Bogusevic in more of an RBI spot. Bogusevic responded by hitting a game-tying home run off Dan Haren in his first game since returning from the 15-day disabled list.
Sveum said he wasn’t sure if trading veterans such as Soriano and David DeJesus affected Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo more, but he reiterated it’s time for those players to step up.
“The bottom line is we’re grown men at this point in our lives, and we have to do things ourselves and improve and get through adversity ourselves,” Sveum said. “A lot of people don’t have guys patting them on the back or whatever. There comes a point where you have to do things yourself.”
Rizzo, who missed Monday’s game because of illness, stranded runners in scoring position in each of his first three at-bats. He downplayed the scrutiny of Castro and himself.
“There are nine guys hitting every day, so it’s not just me and Castro’s responsibility,” said Rizzo, who is batting .173 with runners in scoring position this season. “It’s the entire team’s.”