CHICAGO -- Before every game, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro go to the batting cage together. It doesn't matter if it's home or road, rain or shine. The only break is if one is not playing, and Castro hasn't had many days off.
"I don't tell him what to do but I motivate him to go -- 'Let's go to the cage,'" Soriano said prior to an 8-7 loss to the Reds on Sunday. "Sometimes, he gets tired. We have a good routine. I tell him, if he's in the lineup, he has to go. He has to work with Rudy [Jaramillo, hitting coach] and work on preparation."
Whatever they're doing is paying off. Castro, who homered and singled on Sunday, finished the game leading the National League in hits with 150 in 112 games. He's passed his 2010 season total of 139 in 125 games. The shortstop has played in all but three of the Cubs' games this year.
"I'm very happy for him," Soriano said of the Cubs' 21-year-old shortstop. "It's his first full year in the league, and he may get 200 hits. It's hard for a player -- the first year, he can do good because pitchers don't know him. The second year, the pitchers in the league know him, but he's made adjustments and does what he has to do to put the ball in play, and he's leading the league in hits."
Cubs manager Mike Quade almost gave Castro a day off on Sunday but thought better of it. The shortstop has 19 games with three or more hits, most in the National League, and had 44 multihit games. He finished play on Sunday riding an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 18-for-37 (.486).
"He's gotten hot and probably has had less rest than anybody and continues to motor on," Quade said. "There's still a lot of baseball left, and we'll keep an eye on him for the rest of August and September. That's another thing you like to see is not only a guy who's good but he's grinding through the year and still playing with energy and still successful."