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Piniella won't rush phenom Castro
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella, right, along with coaches Matt Sinatro, middle, and Lester Strode watch pitchers warm up during spring training baseball camp practice.


Associated Press

First baseman Derrek Lee says team chemistry was not the issue last season.


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Published: 2/22/2010 10:09 PM | Updated: 2/23/2010 11:21 PM

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MESA, Ariz. - One of the moments everybody had been waiting for in Cubs camp was the arrival of shortstop phenom Starlin Castro.

Although he won't turn 20 until March 24, Castro is a hot item after starring last year at Class A Daytona, Class AA Tennessee and in the Arizona Fall League.

"He's got good hands," manager Lou Piniella said. "He can swing the bat. You know, he reminds me, just from first glance, a little bit of (shortstop Edgar) Renteria when he was younger. He uses his hands well to hit. He stroked the ball quite well for his first day."

Castro, a native of the Dominican Republic, met the media after the workout and got some interpreting help from infielder Andres Blanco.

"I'm excited to be part of the team and practice with those guys," said Castro, who added that he wasn't nervous. "I never asked anybody to compare me with (Renteria). I just like to play the game the right way."

Despite the high praise, Piniella said he will bring Castro along slowly.

"We'll get a good feel for him this spring," Piniella said. "These kids will let you know when they're ready. The special ones, they come quick. The special player, you don't look at their age.

"You just look at what they do on the field and how they react. If they have a bad day, how they bounce back.

"The ability is there, there's no question. He's got good hands. He's got a good throwing arm. From what I saw today, he's got a nice little swing. We'll just put him out there and let him play and gain some experience."

No worries: In addition to Starlin Castro, first baseman Derrek Lee and third baseman Aramis Ramirez met the media for the first time.

Lee is a free agent at the end of the season. Ramirez can opt out of his contract. Both said they were not thinking about that.

"I think it's going to be my first time going into the final year of a contract," Lee said. "But it's something you really don't think about. My main concern is helping this team win."

The Cubs' front office expressed no worries about either contract situation.

Lee and Ramirez each reported good progress with injuries.

Ramirez rehabbed "Monday through Friday" all off-season after dislocating his left shoulder last May, missing two months and playing in pain.

Lee had flare-ups with neck spasms last year but said he took therapy over the winter, and he said it helped.

Chemistry lesson: Much was made of the Cubs having "poor chemistry" last year. Derrek Lee said that was not the Cubs' problem.

"That's the million-dollar question," he said. "I think when you're winning, the chemistry always seems to come together.

"And when you're not, it's always questioned. You know, it can't hurt to always have a good bunch of guys in the clubhouse and guys having fun.

"I don't think that was our problem last year. I just think we didn't play good baseball, and the injuries mounted up on us."

This and that: Left fielder Alfonso Soriano took batting practice and ran lightly during the first full day of workouts. He reported no problems with his surgically repaired left knee. - Right fielder Kosuke Fukudome has made some mechanical changes with his swing in working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, according to Lou Piniella. -

The Cubs will not use shortstop Ryan Theriot at second base this spring, despite the presence of Starlin Castro. Piniella did say second baseman Mike Fontenot may see some action at shortstop this spring.