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Thursday, June 20, 2013
Cubs facing short turnaround

By Rob Rains
Special to ESPNChicago.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Cubs were not pleased with the 7:15 p.m. CT start time for the final game of the series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, basically guaranteeing the team would not arrive back in Chicago until after midnight Friday.

The Cubs will have to turn around and play at 1:20 p.m. Friday against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field.

“It’s not our call,” manager Dale Sveum said of the decision to play a night game instead of a day game. “You don’t see this too often.”

Traditionally, the final game of a series is a day game, especially when the traveling team is going home. The Astros played in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon and were scheduled to arrive in Chicago before the Cubs' game even started.

One of the oddities in the major league rules is that if a team is scheduled to have a day off at home following a road trip, the final game of the road trip has to be played during the day. There is no such protection when the team is playing the next day.

“It’s a strange rule,” Sveum said.

The Cubs even tried to get Friday’s start time pushed up to 3:05 p.m., giving them at least a little more rest, but could not get that request approved by city officials.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he did not know why Thursday’s game was not scheduled during the day.

“I just show up when they tell me to,” he said.

The Cubs did send pitcher Matt Garza, scheduled to start Friday, back to Chicago before Thursday night’s game.

Castro looking for hits

Shortstop Starlin Castro was in the Cubs starting lineup for the 71st consecutive game Thursday night. The only two players in the National League who have played in more games and not missed a game so far this season are the Cincinnati RedsJoey Votto and the Philadelphia PhilliesJimmy Rollins.

With the playing time has not come production, however. Castro had just one hit in 12 at-bats in the first three games of the series in St. Louis and was only 4-of-26 in the first six games of the road trip.

For the month of June, Castro is hitting .134 (9-of-67) with only four extra-base hits -- all doubles -- and three RBIs. His OPS for the month is only .377.

The slump has dropped his season average to .235, the lowest it has been since April 6.

Asked what he has seen lately from Castro, Sveum said, “Not too much.”

Castro’s offensive numbers are down in almost every category from the past two seasons, after he hit .307 in 2011 and .283 last season.

“By numbers alone, he has regressed. There’s no question about it,” Sveum said. “You’re talking about an OPS under .600 [.596], and you have to get way, way down among all of the shortstops in baseball [to find him].”

Of the NL shortstops with more than 180 at-bats this season, Castro ranks 11th in OPS.

“He knows the formula,” Sveum said. “I said a few weeks ago the rest is up to him. He knows the issues and the mechanical things that are different from when he first got to the big leagues, so it’s up to him to get all of that ironed out.”

Johnson promoted

The Cubs on Thursday promoted their first-round pick from the 2012 draft, right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson, from Class A Kane County to Class A Daytona in the Florida State League.

Johnson had gone 5-5 in 13 starts at Kane County with a 3.10 ERA, recording 74 strikeouts in 69⅔ innings.

Third-round, seventh-round picks sign

The Cubs also said Thursday they have signed third-round pick Jacob Hannemann, an outfielder from Brigham Young, and seventh-round pick David Garner, a right-handed pitcher from Michigan State.