Cubs Insider’s Q&A With Comcast SportsNet’s Patrick Mooney

Today, we get to check in again with Cubs beat reporter, Patrick Mooney of Comcast Sports Net Chicago.

Mooney shares his thoughts on covering these up-and-coming Cubs, Rick Renteria’s managerial style, Starlin Castro, and the Cubs upcoming off-season plans.

Follow Patrick @CSNMooney

TL: How much easier has your job become covering these young Cubs players people actually have wanted to see?

PM: It’s not really a matter of it being easier or harder. It’s essentially the same job. Either way, the Cubs are a great story because people care about what they’re doing and want to know what’s going on. It’s young players for the moment, but something always seems to happen around this team.

TL: Can we at least safely say the focus has finally shifted from Tennessee and Iowa to Chicago?

PM: After writing off several major-league seasons, there’s no reason the Cubs can’t put a competitive team on the field in 2015, given their young core, pitching infrastructure and financial flexibility this winter. That doesn’t mean start printing playoff tickets, but it will be time to start having expectations again and playing games that matter.

TL: Starlin Castro has been somewhat of a model citizen for most of this season. He has also rebounded from his struggles of last year. Is it fair to ask if some media members seemed quick to “pile on” after his recent gaffe.

PM: It’s puzzling.

You’d have to ask those who – in your words – “pile on.” Before suffering what looks like a season-ending ankle injury, Castro answered a lot of questions about his offensive game and defensive focus.

For his part, Castro doesn’t believe he’s singled out for criticism, saying that it’s his responsibility – along with Anthony Rizzo – to set the example for younger players and work hard every day.

TL: Which one of the call-ups has so far impressed you the most?

PM: Considering the lack of buzz surrounding his arrival, the organization’s need for pitching and the way he’s performed in difficult environments against tough lineups, it would have to be Kyle Hendricks, who looks like he could be a big part of this rotation for years to come.

TL: What kind of offseason activity do you expect for the Cubs? Can we expect both a top-of-the-rotation pitcher and a veteran bat?

PM: A very busy offseason where the Cubs kick the tires on just about everyone. Theo Epstein looks at offseasons in concert, planning to acquire a frontline starter or two either this winter or after the 2015 season.

Getting some veteran bats to set the tone in the clubhouse and take pressure off the kids is a great idea in theory. But this upcoming class of free agents is weak in terms of position players.

TL: What do you gather Rick Renteria has done differently than Dale Sveum to get rebounds out of the younger players like Castro and Rizzo?

PM: It’s hard to tell.

Renteria has a different personality, but Castro and Rizzo emerging as All-Stars could just be two young players learning from their experience, clearing their heads in the offseason, making some adjustments and letting their natural talents take over.

TL: Is pitching coach Chris Bosio entering Don Cooper and Dave Duncan territory, becoming known as a guru who can rehab once-heralded arms like Jake Arrieta?

PM: Bosio doesn’t have Cooper’s 2005 World Series run, and Duncan’s someone who might be in the Cooperstown conversation if the Hall of Fame widened its focus and inducted coaches. But Bosio does have a lot of influence inside the organization, given his strong personality and background as an advance scout and special-assignment coach.

He’s also got credibility inside the clubhouse because he played the game for a long time and at a high level. There are a lot of people working hard behind the scenes – from pro scouting to data analysis to player development – to build up that pitching infrastructure. But someone has to have the authority to look a pitcher in the eye and convince him why it will work.

That’s “Boz.”

TL: Who is the SS for the 2015 Cubs?

PM: The best guess is Castro, even with an ankle injury that looked like it could have been so much worse. But the Cubs will be open-minded about everything.

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