CHICAGO -- Trying to come up with some solution for his impotent offense, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has decided to put his slumping young players at the top of the lineup. After dropping Starlin Castro to eighth in the batting order on Tuesday, Sveum has Castro batting first and Anthony Rizzo hitting second on Wednesday.
The pair took extra batting practice an hour before their teammates in hopes of cleaning out the cobwebs from batting strokes gone bad. Castro was in a 1-for-27 slump, and Rizzo entered play Wednesday in a 2-for-24 tailspin.
"The focal point is part of the gig as I told Rizzo today," Sveum said. "The one thing you don't want to have happen is for you not to be the focal point. That means something has fizzled away. You always want to be the focal point when you are in a big market."
Castro was insulted with his drop in the order and responded with an 0-for-4 performance.
"Most of it came down to thinking about Castro the last couple of days," Sveum said. "We should spend the next five weeks making him and Rizzo feel good going into the winter. Now that we have lost [David] DeJesus in the leadoff spot, this is one place where [Castro] has flourished in. Hopefully he can try to use this to get his so-called swagger back."
The intent of the move, and the early exclusive round of batting practice for the two young hitters, is yet another attempt to relax and help them. The hope is they become the core players management expects them to be in the future.
"I explained to [Castro] that this wasn't about any punishment and this was where our lineup was," Sveum said about Castro's hitting eighth. "I wanted to explain that it wasn't anything other than that."
Castro expressed relief when Sveum told him he had been elevated back to the top of the lineup.
"It is good for me batting first," Castro said after batting practice. "When I had the year (2011) of getting 200 hits, that is where I hit. I feel pretty good about it and now I hope to finish strong."
Castro and Rizzo commiserated about their collective slumps during batting practice.
"I talked a lot to him," Castro said. "We talked about having bad seasons this year. So we talked about just finishing strong and next year coming back normally. We will be more aggressive at the top of the lineup. There are a lot better pitches to hit."
Sveum said the lineup decisions are his alone. He admitted that talking to the front office from time to time about the hitters and how they are handling their roles is a function of the job.