CHICAGO – One by one, they’re going to make their way to Wrigley Field. The Chicago Cubs' farm system -- the best in in baseball, according to ESPN.com -- is producing major leaguers and will be for the foreseeable future.
Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks and Dallas Beeler are a few of the names who have made their debuts this season. The pressure that comes with it can be overwhelming. That’s where teammates like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro come in. Both made the All-Star team this year and feel they can make the Cubs newcomers comfortable. Their message?
“It’s not easy,” Rizzo said before the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. “You play in a minor league stadium, then with one with a third deck. You can’t prepare for that. You get used to it.”
The sooner you get used to it, the sooner you can produce is how the thinking goes. That’s why the Cubs' message is to change nothing. Adjust when adjustment is called for, but don’t change who you are as a player.
“We have a lot of conversations about the game at this level,” Castro said of Alcantara, who made the second error of his major league career Friday. “When he learns a little more he’ll be a better player.”
Castro said his new, sometime-double-play partner is a “good listener” and takes things to heart. Alcantara knows he would be foolish not to listen to those who’ve had success before him.
“They tell me to play hard,” the 22-year-old said. “I want to learn how to play here.”
Rizzo was asked how a player can get away from being himself. Where can it go wrong?
“Looking at too much video or over-analyzing things,” he responded. “Things like that. Worrying about the big-name pitcher who’s throwing like [Adam] Wainwright on Sunday. He’s not just another right-hander, but you have to treat it like that as much as you can.”
Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s specialty is developing and dealing with young players. He’s going to have a slew of them in the coming months and years. His best advice mimics that of Rizzo and Castro.
“Don’t try to do too much,” Renteria said. “The game is still the same. Those are the biggest things I can share with them. They’re pretty sharp young men. Sometimes I don’t have to say a word. They just go out there and make adjustments.”
It wasn’t long ago that Rizzo and Castro were the ones trying to settle in at the major league level. Now they are the teachers. A little bit by default, but also because they’re having good seasons. You can’t lead from the bench or if you’re hitting .220.
“Come in here and play hard,” Castro advised. “You have great talent. Just play.”
“That’s my role on this team,” Rizzo added. “That’s my job. It’s something I embrace.
Both will be doing a lot of nurturing in the coming years.