Hunt continues for Castro's ideal lineup spot

CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro has played the bulk of the season in three separate lineup spots for the Chicago Cubs and none of them seem to be the one best suited for his abilities, which is the way manager Dale Sveum sees it.

For the time being, Castro has been able to stop his rapidly plummeting batting average from the No. 5 spot in the lineup. His batting average dropped to .272 on Tuesday and it has hovered around that mark for the last week.

According to Sveum, though, Castro’s current skill set doesn’t suit him to being a No. 5 hitter or a No. 2 or No. 3 hitter, which are the other two spots he has been used most this season.

“What makes sense the way he hits, not really working counts and working walks, probably in a real world in a prolific offense probably would be more towards the sixth and seventh spots really,” Sveum said.

It has been obvious that Castro is at least trying to have more patience at the plate. He has worked 14 walks since June 25, which doesn’t sound like much until it’s compared to his earlier numbers. By June 25, Castro had walked just six times.

But trying to be patient seems to have ultimately been costly to Castro’s hitting ability. After walking twice in a June 30 game against the Astros, Castro held a .298 batting average. He then went on to hit .279 in July and was batting .234 this month, before play Monday.

It seems to be no coincidence that Castro’s production rate slipped after the Cubs fired hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on June 12 and replaced him with James Rowson, who has stressed a more patient approach. One game before Jaramillo was fired, Castro was batting .308.

Another thing that probably doesn’t help is Castro’s shuffling around the lineup, something Sveum acknowledged as probably not the best way to get settled. Castro has been a No. 2 hitter 53 times, batted in the No. 3 spot 51 times and was in the No. 5 spot for the eighth time. He also had one turn as the leadoff hitter.

“But I think the way his approach to hitting is, I don't think he really knows where he's hitting in the lineup for anything,” Sveum said. “That makes me a little bit more comfortable with it. Like I've said before, he's kind of a cut-and-slasher and no matter where he's in the lineup it's not going to change his approach. Not right now anyway.”