Sveum still letting Castro work out of slump

Although he’s not seeing the progress he’d like, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum still can’t bring himself to bench shortstop Starlin Castro, who’s stuck in a 3-for-38 slump.

“I just can’t pull the trigger on it,” Sveum said before Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. “At this point right now I just can’t seem to give myself enough reasons to do it.”

Apparently the skid, including an 0-for-10 weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates, isn’t enough of a reason for Sveum. It’s become a daily question to the manager -- and to Castro.

“I’m real close,” Castro said after making some hard-hit outs against the Pirates. “Still working hard. I don’t want too many things in my mind.”

It’s not exactly how Sveum is seeing things, despite his loyalty to his two-time all-star.

“I don’t see any of the things I’d like to see changed being changed,” Sveum said. “The timing and the mechanics just aren’t changing enough to center a baseball consistently.”

Castro has played in 256 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the National League, so the question comes up periodically whether it’s a good idea for him to play every day even when he’s slumping. In the past Sveum has never wavered from his position that his best young players -- like Castro and Anthony Rizzo -- would see the field for 162 games. But now he’s wavering.

“I don’t know,” Sveum said. “He’s still a fixture in our lineup. He’s a threat, he can still do things.”

But what can he do, really? He has three home runs and his on-base percentage is .283. That wouldn’t even be a good batting average for a player of his talents.

“Billy Williams told me the other day, ‘When you come out you look like you’re in between,’” Castro explained. ‘You see the ball you go hit.’

“Sometimes I think too much.”

It doesn’t sound like anyone has any answers for Castro right now, which means Sveum’s decision might become easier in the coming days if he can’t get himself out of this slump. One thing is for sure -- his streak of games played won’t keep him in the lineup, and it shouldn’t.

“If I do it, someone isn’t going to talk me out of it because of a streak,” Sveum said. “We’re not getting to Cal Ripken's streak here.”

So it’s back to early batting practice for Castro and maybe less thinking at the plate. Either way, it’s on him now.

“I don’t want a day off,” he said. I’m going to keep doing what I do. ... I’m pretty close to getting out of this.”

The Cubs are hoping he’s right.