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Mental gaffes driving Cubs’ Sveum crazy

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –

Mental gaffes have been part of the Cubs’ season from the start, causing Dale Sveum to shake his head in bewilderment.

Starlin Castro forgetting the number of outs in San Francisco, Dave Sappelt getting thrown out at third in Houston to deny the Cubs a run on a sacrifice fly and Luis Valbuena’s stargazing episode Wednesday night are just a few glaring examples.

Sveum said it wasn’t reflective of the coaching staff but of the individual players’ lack of focus.

“I don’t take anything to heart when a player gets picked off standing and gazing at the stars,” he said Thursday.

Valbuena, the tying run, was picked off of second when he was taking off his batting gloves and not paying attention.

“We have one of these things every three or four days that are not even explainable,” Sveum said. “You obviously don’t practice staying on a base when a pitcher isn’t on the mound. (These are) things that just boggle your mind, for major league players who have played a lot of baseball to just be looking off into left field before the pitcher is on the mound.

“These things get unacceptable. And (asking) why are these things happening drives you crazy as a manager because there’s no rhyme or reason for things like that to happen.”

Valbuena was back in the starting lineup Thursday at third base. Why not bench him?

“Nah, he feels as bad as anybody,” Sveum said. “It’s not one of those things where you’re dogging it or anything like that. Why these brain farts happen … it’s not (cause to) bench anybody over it. It’s hard to fathom when something like that happens, especially in a key moment of the ballgame.”

Strong start: Jason Berken had a solid outing against the Reds but was lifted after six innings of shutout ball, throwing 86 pitches and allowing two hits.

“He did his job,” Sveum said. “That was enough. I’m not trying to run these guys out there and get them hurt. We don’t have a lot of depth there.”

Berken tied a major league record with four strikeouts in the second inning, thanks to a strikeout on a wild pitch that allowed an extra out. He said he didn’t realize it until he got to the bench.

“It was cool, but by no means am I going for strikeouts,” he said. “For me, it’s important to force early contact and have the ability to pitch deep into games.”

Extra innings: The announced crowd of 25,891 was the lowest of the season at Wrigley Field. … The Cubs will have Kerry Wood Appreciation Day on Sunday.


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