Castro homers, drives in six to carry Cubs past Reds

CINCINNATI -- The kid sure knows how to answer a call.

Starlin Castro got awakened by his first call to the majors on Friday and arrived in historic style, hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat and driving in a record six runs during the Chicago Cubs' 14-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

"The kid -- what a debut!" manager Lou Piniella said. "He's got to be ecstatic. He should be."

The 20-year-old became the youngest shortstop in Cubs history when he stepped onto the field for the first time. Then, he became a sensation.

His homer off Homer Bailey (0-2) made him the sixth player in Cubs history to connect in his first at-bat. He added a bases-loaded triple, sliding headfirst into the record books with six RBIs, the most ever in a modern day debut -- one more than the previous mark shared by four players.

The last player to drive in five runs in his debut was Ben Grieve in 1997.

"I didn't believe it," Castro said.

Believe it.

An authenticator from Major League Baseball gathered his blue game jersey, his cap and the lineup card, designating them as little pieces of the game's history.

The rookie's impressive arrival staked Chicago to a 9-0 lead after five innings. Carlos Silva (3-0) struggled anyway, lasting only five innings. He gave up a two-run homer by reliever Micah Owings in the fifth, when the Reds batted around for four runs.

Not nearly enough on a night when the newcomer named Starlin became a star. The victory snapped Chicago's three-game losing streak and became one of those reference-point moments in not only franchise history but baseball history as well.

"Amazing," said Silva, who was bothered by a tight neck. "Unbelievable. I was hitting behind him, looking at everything he was doing. I was like: 'Wow.'"

No one saw it coming.

Castro was asleep at Double-A Tennessee after a night game when he got the call at 7 a.m. telling him to head for Cincinnati. At first, he didn't believe it. Once it sunk in, he called relatives and friends back in the Dominican Republic to relay the surprising news.

"We're excited about bringing Starlin to the big leagues," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He played awfully well at Double-A.

"We also felt that at this time, he would make our team better defensively. At the same time, we feel Ryan [Theriot] will be better served playing on the other side of the bag, where he has a lot of experience as well."

The Cubs made the move after they got swept in a three-game series in Pittsburgh, dropping them to 13-16 -- good for fourth place in the NL Central.

"I made this decision a couple of days ago," Hendry said. "We haven't knocked in runs, so the decision is that we should make the team better defensively.

"By bringing Starlin up and playing him at shortstop, we feel we are better there and at second base."

Castro found himself in the starting lineup, batting eighth because manager Lou Piniella wanted to break him in slowly.

He'd have none of that.

Wearing the No. 13 that former Reds shortstop Davey Concepcion made famous in Cincy, Castro came to the plate and worked Bailey to a 2-2 count in the second inning, then drove the next pitch over the wall in right field. No Cub had done that in his first at-bat since Jim Bullinger in 1992.

"I never expected to hit a home run my first at-bat," he said.

Castro lined out to Drew Stubbs the next time up, forcing the center fielder to make a sliding catch to rob him of another hit. He came up again in the fifth with the bases loaded and lined a ball into the gap in left-center, making it all the way to third with a headfirst slide.

Won't be the last time he kicks up dust in the majors.

"Definitely a little frustrating," said Bailey, who hung a breaking ball for Castro's homer. "That first home run, I thought it was going to die on the warning track. It didn't. I was getting a lot of first-pitch strikes, but I couldn't put anybody away."

Marlon Byrd added a two-run homer for the Cubs and narrowly missed another. His eighth-inning drive smacked off the yellow line at the top of the padding in left field. Third base umpire Mike Winters ruled the ball in play, a call that was upheld after a review that took 2 minutes, 24 seconds.

Mike Fontenot made it 14-4 with a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning off Carlos Fisher.

Game notes
Castro surpassed Marty Shay as the youngest Cubs shortstop to make his big league debut. Shay was 100 days older when he made it to the majors in 1916. ... Castro's promotion meant Ryan Theriot had to move to second base. Theriot became the Cubs' everyday shortstop in 2007. He has played 80 games at second base during his career. ... Orlando Cabrera batted leadoff for the Reds for the first time. Stubbs was dropped from first to seventh.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.