From Comcast SportsNetCHICAGO (AP) -- Starlin Castro was barely out of his teens when he made his big league debut. Now it looks as though he'll still be donning Cubbie blue when he hits his 30s.The Chicago Cubs and their young shortstop agreed to a seven-year contract with a club option for 2020, the team said Tuesday. The deal could keep Castro in Chicago until after his 30th birthday."Only the most talented players get to the big leagues at 20," said Cubs general manger Jed Hoyer. "I'm sitting here with a 22-year-old veteran right now. That was a big part of our decision."The way it was looking, Starlin was going to be a free agent way too early. He's a big part of our future. We have four years of control with him after this year. By doing this deal, we now have eight."Castro is a two-time All-Star in just his second full major league season, and he led the National League in hits with 207 last season. Since making his major league debut on May 7, 2010, Castro has more hits than any player in the NL with 486."I want to be here for a long time and winning," Castro said. "My family (will) change, but nothing (will) change for myself. (The money is) not going to stop me from working hard every day on the field."Castro was originally signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on Oct. 25, 2006. Terms of the new deal were not released by the team, but published reports have placed the guaranteed money at 60 million over the duration of the extension, a figure Castro was asked about in Tuesday's press conference."It's big, especially for my family, coming from very poor people," Castro said. "Now my family is going to be better, their lives changing."Castro motioned toward his father, who was standing nearby, and said, "My dad wanted me to play baseball every time. He got me here."While Castro's raw talent has always been evident, things have not always gone smoothly for a player who skirted with trouble off the field and suffered well-publicized mental lapses on it. He was accused of sexual assault following the 2011 season, though Cook County prosecutors declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.Castro's on-field focus has also been questioned, most notably during a nationally-televised game last season when cameras captured him with his back to the plate as a pitch was being delivered.Despite the occasional bouts with immaturity, the Cubs feel Castro is going to be a foundation player for a club just beginning its rebuilding process under a new front office regime headed by vice president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer."It's been fun getting to know Starlin as a person, but also watching him play every day," Hoyer said. "Shortstop is a really hard position to fill in today's game, especially with someone who can provide it with offense."There is no question in my mind that he can play shortstop in the big leagues on a championship team."Castro whet the appetite of Cubs fans from the start, homering in his first career at-bat and setting a big league record with six RBIs in his debut. He was taken in by Cubs veteran Alfonso Soriano, a fellow Dominican who helped mentor Castro at the beginning of his career."He's very important," Castro said of Soriano. "When I first got here, he took me to live in his house. He talked to me about baseball and how important baseball is for you and your family."Castro, a career .296 hitter, was batting .276 this season with 12 homers and 63 RBIs before Tuesday night's game against Milwaukee. He's struggled recently and admitted he might have been slightly distracted by the negotiations between the Cubs and his agent, Paul Kinzer."It'll be interesting to see if there is any change now that this thing is behind him and he'll be here for a long time," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "When you get that first contract, you can relax and realize that there really is only one thing to play for and that's winning the World Series."
Manager Dusty Baker was asked about Trea Turner's surprising strength on Thursday night and, well, his answer was a bit unexpected.
You could say things got a little weird. Baker started talking about Turner's build and his description got quite specific:
"He’s wiry-strong. You can tell by that ball he hit down the line. That’s a big man’s swing right there. He’s stronger than he appears. And he’s going to get stronger yet, when he gets his man-muscles or his man-bones or whatever you call it. Heh-heh. Cause today I tapped him on the butt, and I was like: ‘Man, you’re hard as a rock.’ And he said: ‘Well, I should be. It’s all bone.’”
Okay, then. Now, that's a quote.
Baker also described Max Scherzer's between-the-legs on Thursday night in terms that included the male anatomy:
"First time I’ve seen that. Good thing that ball didn’t hop up on him, know what I mean?”
Just another night with Dusty Baker, one of the funniest people in sports.
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Despite his team holding a comfortable division lead in the final week of August, there was plenty on the line to motivate Max Scherzer on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
He was tasked with stopping his team's four-game losing streak against a team in the Baltimore Orioles that was aiming for a four-game sweep. Going back to last season, the O's had won six consecutive games over the Nats. They had their number. They smelled blood. And because of the proximity of the team's stadiums, they had some of their friends lacing the audience dressed in orange.
The Nationals' bullpen also needed a favor. Rookie starter Reynaldo Lopez went just 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday and Tanner Roark was bounced after five the following night. Last week Nats relievers were plagued by even shorter outings from the rotation, rain delays and injuries.
Simply put, the Nationals needed Scherzer to be the ace they paid him $210 million to be. They needed 'Mad Max.'
So, Scherzer stepped out of the dugout and into the view of a sellout crowd on Thursday night with that crazed looked in his eye, that 20-strikeout, 'you'll be lucky to get any hits at all' kind of look. He was ready to be the aggressor against an Orioles lineup that is as aggressive and powerful as they come.
"They have a lot of guys that have a lot of thump in their lineup and the past three nights, I had really been watching them," Scherzer said. "I was going through my experience and really coming up with a gameplan of how I needed to pitch against them."
Scherzer used that preparation to charge out to a fantastic start with six strikeouts in his first eight at-bats. He carved up the Orioles to the tune of eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, no walks and just two hits allowed. That set the stage for just the fifth time the O's have been shut out this season.
"That’s what aces do," manager Dusty Baker said. "He shut down a very high–powered offense. There were only a couple balls hit hard off him. Had quite a few strikeouts. Boy, that was a masterful, masterful job by Max."
It was the 11th time Scherzer has posted double-digit strikeouts in a game this season, more than any other MLB pitcher. That tied the Nats club record he set himself just last year.
His 10th strikeout was against Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in the eighth inning. He then got J.J. Hardy to fly out to end the frame and his night after 95 pitches.
Scherzer had every reason to keep pushing late in his start, but there was something in the park on Thursday that gave him some extra motivation.
"I gave everything I got there in the eighth, the O's fans started making noise there in the eighth and that really kind of ticked me off. When they're sitting out there cheering at our park, I didn't like that," he said.
That, of course, was a minor consideration for Scherzer. More important to him was saving the aforementioned bullpen, which has been taxed more than any part of their roster during this current stretch of 20 games in 20 days.
"I knew I needed to pitch deep into the game tonight. Our bullpen has been taxed, and I really needed to try and get deep into the game to try and help those guys out. That was huge to get into the eighth and complete the eighth and just turn the ball over to Mark [Melancon], so that was a first and foremost thing that I knew I needed to do tonight," he said.
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WASHINGTON---Thrust in the starting rotation because Chris Tillman is on the disabled list, Ubaldo Jimenez pitched a creditable game on Thursday night.
Jimenez’s issue was that Max Scherzer was nearly perfect.
The Orioles had just two hits in eight innings against Scherzer as the Washington Nationals beat the Orioles 4-0 before a sellout crowd of 39,722 at Nationals Park.
After winning the first three games against the Nationals (74-53), the Orioles (70-57) were shut down completely by the great Scherzer, who struck out 10 in his eight innings without walking a batter. He threw 95 pitches.
Jimenez allowed one run on five hits, striking out four without walking a batter in six innings.
“I think everybody was pulling for him. He’s such a good young man, just needed it. I almost took him out after the fifth, but he said he felt good and wanted to go there. but we needed those six innings. We’re still having trouble pitching that last inning. It’s been a challenge for us, but Ubaldo kept us in the game. There’s a game there to be won if we could keep that thing at 1-0,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Logan Ondrusek allowed three runs in the eighth.
Scherzer (14-7) quickly retired the first nine Orioles, striking out six of them before Adam Jones doubled to left, leading off the fourth. That was the Orioles’ only baserunner.
After setting down the next 12, Mark Trumbo singled to lead off the eighth.
Jayson Werth led off the fourth with a long home run to center field off JImenez and the Nationals had a 1-0 lead.
Jimenez won the plaudits of his manager and teammates.
“I want to talk about how Ubaldo threw the ball. He went out there and I’m pretty sure many people didn’t expect him to do what he did. Six innings. One pitch I know he wants to have back, but he threw the hell out of the ball,” Jones said.
Jones was pinch hit for in the ninth inning, and Showalter said he was taken out as a precaution.
“He had a cramp in the hamstring in one leg. Felt it earlier in the game, and I just didn’t like the description. I talked to him when he came off the field in the bottom of the 8th. It’s just not worth taking a chance, because we really don't have much depth at that position either,” Showalter said.
Jones dismissed questions about his injury as he generally does when he’s hurt. “I’m good, so it doesn’t matter,” Jones said. He did say he planned on playing Friday.
Jimenez’s turn will come up against Toronto on Tuesday. This year, Jimenez has allowed 12 runs on 15 hits in 7 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays.
“I haven’t even gotten that far on. I don’t know what else he has to do,” Showalter said. “We’ll step back and take a look at it and continue to try to put our best foot forward. He certainly did tonight.”
Jimenez was pleased with how well he pitched in his first start since July 28 against the Twins.
“That’s everything I’ve done in my career, start. I know why I was put in the bullpen, but it’s very good to have this one and the one in Minnesota too. Hopefully, I get some more, but wherever they put me, I’m going to try to do the best I can to be there for the team,” Jimenez said.
He enjoyed the matchup with one of the game’s best.
“As a starting pitcher, that’s one of the games that you dream of, because it gets you going. You have to bring your A-game, because that guy’s tough to hit,” Jimenez said.
The Orioles were aggressive against Scherzer, but it didn’t work
“I guess so, but that didn’t rattle him. He kept back. He had a plan. He executed it. He was using all his pitches tonight. He was very difficult to face, and he did a good job,” Steve Pearce said.
The game got away in the eighth when Ondrusek pitched his second inning. Mike Wright came on after the first three batters of the inning got on.
Trea Turner, who was 10-for-13 in the last three games of the series, singled to begin the inning. Werth singled, and Daniel Murphy doubled down the right field line to score Turner. Bryce Harper’s double scored two more for a 4-0 lead.
Showalter said that the team might have to make one or two moves because neither Ondrusek nor Wright would be available on Friday.
One of the possible additions, T.J. McFarland pitched a perfect inning for Bowie.
NOTE: The Orioles open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Yovani Gallardo (4-5, 5.08) faces Luis Cessa (3-0, 4.01).
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