CHICAGO -- Monday marked the two-year anniversary of when Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro made his Major League debut at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. On May 7, 2010, Castro went 2-for-5 in that game, hitting a three-run homer in his first plate appearance. Castro added a three-run triple that game, and his six RBIs were the most recorded by a player in his first career appearance.
"Hopefully, he can repeat that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Monday. "It's kind of a legendary debut. Hopefully, he can do that tonight, too."
In his first two calendar years of big league play, Castro has hit .308 with 73 doubles, 16 triples, 14 homers and 125 RBIs in 311 games.
"The guy can hit," Sveum said of the 22-year-old infielder. "It's just a learning curve now, situational hitting, men in scoring position, and know what the pitcher is going to give you and prepare for that and understand what the pitcher is going to do in certain situations. I think that's his biggest learning curve.
"He's always going to hit. He's got the mechanics and the hand-eye coordination to hit. The important part is with runners in scoring position and the big hits and later in the inning, and later in the game when you're facing velocity and stuff and all that, and understanding what those pitchers are going to do to you."
Since making his debut, Castro ranks fourth in the Majors with 385 hits, trailing the Rangers' Michael Young, the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki and the Red Sox's Adrian Gonzalez.
Cardenas called up; Wood optioned to Triple-A
CHICAGO -- Adrian Cardenas owes Brett Jackson dinner.
Cardenas was having dinner Sunday night with Jackson in Des Moines when Triple-A Iowa manager Dave Bialas called. Dessert was out. Jackson said he'd pick up the tab. Cardenas had to pack.
The Cubs recalled Cardenas on Monday and optioned left-handed pitcher Travis Wood to Iowa. Wood subbed for sick starter Matt Garza on Sunday, and infielder Blake DeWitt had been designated for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for Wood. The Cubs needed another infielder and picked Cardenas, whom they claimed off waivers from the Athletics in February.
"It's been a long road," said Cardenas. "To finally get here is unbelievable. It's time now to readjust your goals, and the object here is to win ballgames and hopefully stick, so that's what I'm going to do my best at. First and foremost, I'm thrilled and excited."
The 24-year-old expected 18 family members and friends at Monday's game against the Braves, just in case he got in the game for his Major League debut. He got his chance in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 5-1 victory over the Braves on Monday, appearing as a pinch-hitter and lining out to second baseman Dan Uggla.
"The guy can hit," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Cardenas, who was batting .319 in 26 games at Iowa. "He can square a ball up. He's got good bat speed. He gives us another nice left-handed bat off the bench. He'll play, too. We've got to get that left-handed bat in the lineup."
This is Cardenas' first trip to Chicago. He had a chance to come up earlier when the team claimed him, but wanted to wait until he got the call.
"I wanted the first time I get here to be when I got called up," he said. "I didn't realize Lake Michigan is so big."
During early batting practice, Cardenas tested the ivy on the outfield walls, pushing it a little just to see how thick it is.
"I'm a little overwhelmed," he said.
Jackson, the organization's highly touted outfielder, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo have gotten more attention as they work their way up to the big leagues. Cardenas gave his own scouting report on Rizzo.
"He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," Cardenas said. "As good as he is offensively, he's that much better defensively. He's an unbelievable talent. When we have [Bryan] LaHair and Rizzo in that lineup, watch out."
Sveum calls Hamels' comments 'interesting'
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't see Cole Hamels hit the Nationals' Bryce Harper with a pitch on Sunday, but he did hear about the Phillies pitcher's comments.
Hamels plunked Harper in the back with a pitch in the first inning.
"I was trying to hit him," Hamels said. "I'm not going to deny it. I'm not trying to injure the guy. They're probably not going to like me for it, but I'm not going to say I wasn't trying to do it. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That's the way, and I respect it. They can say whatever they want."
On Monday, Major League Baseball suspended Hamels for five games.
"I didn't see it, but obviously, I've heard the quotes," Sveum said Monday. "Interesting quotes. I don't have any more comment on that. They were just interesting quotes, that's for sure."
Cubs pitcher James Russell was watching a replay in the clubhouse on Monday. Is there ever a time when it's necessary to hit a guy with a pitch?
"There's absolutely times when it's necessary," Russell said. "I don't think you need to go out and tell people, 'Hey, I did it on purpose,' and brag about it. That's kind of stupid and immature. It's part of the game. You're supposed to just do it and keep your mouth shut about it, not go tell everybody about it."
Ian Stewart was back in the fifth spot of the Cubs' lineup on Monday, nearly recovered from the flu that has spread in the clubhouse.
"He's good enough," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of his third baseman. "He's probably not 100 percent, but he's good enough to go out there for now. I told him not to do a whole lot today [pregame] to exert himself to get dizzy again. He was dizzy enough to get a big hit [Sunday] and score the tying run, which was huge."
Stewart delivered a pinch-hit single in the ninth and scored the game-winning run in the 11th of the Cubs' 4-3 win over the Dodgers.
Matt Garza, skipped Sunday because of the flu, was on schedule to start Friday in the series opener against the Brewers.
Kaitlon Busser of Chicago was named the 2012 Honorary Bat Girl for the Cubs, part of a program that recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrated a commitment of "Going to Bat" in the fight against the disease. The 30 winners, one per club, will be recognized on the field at Major League ballparks on Mother's Day on Sunday. Because the Cubs are in Milwaukee that day, Busser will be honored prior to another Cubs home game.
During MLB's annual Mother's Day national day of recognition, Honorary Bat Girls will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony and receive pink MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game.
Travis Wood didn't get the win Sunday, but he did leave a good impression on the Cubs. Wood made a spot start for Garza and gave up three runs on three hits over six innings against the Dodgers.
"He did a good job and settled down and had command," Sveum said of the lefty, who was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Monday. "He's come up with a slider, which has helped him a lot. He had command of that with the left-handers. It's going to be equally important to get command of that slider as well as throwing his changeup and his curveball. The slider and changeup are pivotal for him."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.