Castro reaches milestone

CHICAGO – Only 23 years old, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hit a milestone Sunday against the Diamondbacks.

Castro played in his 500th career game since making his major league debut at Cincinnati on May 7, 2010. Castro’s 589 hits are seventh most in franchise history through a player’s first 500 games. Perhaps most impressive: the six players ahead of Castro all played between 1929-37.

Despite Castro's success, manager Dale Sveum still sees room for improvement.

“I think the offensive part, the slugging percentage, the OPS, that's what needs to get more on a consistent basis,” Sveum said. “Driving the baseball, obviously having consistent games of hitting the ball hard consistently with that hand-eye coordination [is important].”

This season Castro hasn’t replicated the success he experienced during his first two seasons. He is hitting .258 with nine walks and 40 strikeouts in 55 games. Castro went 0 for 3 with a run in Sunday’s loss.

“The biggest thing of all – he'll swing out of the zone and we know that – but he's just not doing anything with the drivable pitches right now," Sveum said.

Cubs preparing for draft: As Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft draws closer, the Cubs continue to work on narrowing their choices for their first pick, No. 2 overall.

Jason McLeod, vice president of scouting and player development, has spent plenty of time scouting the best college and high school players around the country. McLeod said, as of now, the Cubs have narrowed the field to four or five players for the No. 2 pick.

“It makes it real exciting during the scouting season because it means you’re seeing the top of the crop,” McLeod said Sunday. “And for me, on a weekly basis I spend a lot of Friday nights seeing the college pitching around the country and seeing the best players that we’re going to consider up at that pick and for our second pick at 41.”

With only the Houston Astros drafting ahead of them, the Cubs will have plenty of options to choose from including pitchers Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, who are considered two of the top prospects in the draft.

“We've spent a lot of time on pick 41 and 75,” McLeod said. “We probably discussed No. 2 for two hours of the four days we've been here so far. So we'll get into those guys a lot more in the coming days.”

Quick trip west: For the first time since 2004 the Cubs travel to Anaheim and play the Angels for a two-game interleague series which begins Tuesday.

The Cubs head into the series with five-consecutive interleague wins, their longest streak since June 15-July 2001 (also five games). The Cubs are 5-1 this season against American League teams and are searching for their first winning record in interleague play since 2007 (8-4).

The west coast trips didn’t treat the Cubs kindly last season, when they went 0-10 against the Padres and Giants.

“We know the history of the west coast is no fun,” Sveum said. “It's hard to win out there. I've been in the game a long time. You play .500 on the west coast you've done a pretty good job.”

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