ST. LOUIS -- This is Welington Castillo's second full season as the Cubs' regular catcher, and he's impressed rookie manager Rick Renteria.
"He's got a feel for what's going on," Renteria said. "He's starting to take a little more control. It's important that he does that."
What Renteria noticed was how Castillo would go to the mound to get the pitchers to slow down the pace of the game and give them a chance to regroup. Castillo is in charge of a young bullpen.
"They're young and don't have a lot of experience," Castillo said. "If they shake anything off, and I think it's the right pitch, I just shake my head, like, 'I got it, let's go. Just follow me, we'll be fine.' We throw the pitch and throw it with conviction and we get the out, and that's how trust comes."
Castillo would like to improve his batting average -- he was hitting .248 heading into Thursday's game -- but he's spending most of his time on the pitchers.
"I've been working really hard on game calling," Castillo said.
Cubs praise Samardzija amid winless streak
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Samardzija ranks second in the Major Leagues with a 1.45 ERA, yet he is winless in his eight starts this season. He'll try again for that elusive "W" on Friday when the Cubs play host to the Brewers.
What do the Cubs need to do to get the right-hander a win?
"It's tough to say, because you never know what's going to happen tomorrow," catcher Welington Castillo said Thursday. "We're going to go with our plan like we always do. We just have to support him a little more with some runs. He has to do the same thing he's been doing his last starts. I think we just need to support him a little bit more. Let's see if tomorrow's the day."
The Cubs have scored 15 runs in Samardzija's eight starts, and he has the second-lowest run support average (1.93) in the Major Leagues. On Monday, they scored 17 runs in a win over the Cardinals.
"We just have to score some runs -- the guy's giving up less than two runs a game for nine innings," second baseman Darwin Barney said. "If we come out and put up three or four, he'll get a win. We just haven't been able to do that for him yet."
Samardzija's streak isn't the longest in Cubs history. As recently as 2012, Ryan Dempster opened the season 0-3 in his first nine starts with a 2.90 ERA before he picked up his first win. Dempster had gone 18 starts without a win, dating back to 2011, and he was the first Cubs pitcher to do so since Danny Jackson's 20-start winless streak in 1991-92.
Samardzija's last win was Aug. 24 against the Padres. He finished the 2013 season 0-2 in his final six starts.
"He's been doing his job," Castillo said of the Cubs' Opening Day starter. "He's been focusing on what he can control and trying to give us a chance to win. His ERA has been amazing. You cannot ask any more of him. He always goes out to pitch and gives us a chance to win."
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has watched Samardzija evolve as a pitcher.
"The wins thing to me is frustrating, because in general, it's a stat that we've all moved away from," Hoyer said. "The way he's pitched, I think he's been as good as anyone in the National League. It'll be nice one day if he didn't have his best stuff and people picked him up."
Said Castillo: "Everybody wants to win, every pitcher wants to win. At the same time, he understands, 'That's all I can control.' Pitch seven, eight innings, sometimes nine, and that's all he can control. He's been really, really good about it."
Rizzo's cancer fundraiser cook-off on Friday
ST. LOUIS -- Tickets are still available for Anthony Rizzo's second "Cook-Off for Cancer" fundraiser to be held Friday, 6-10 p.m. CT, at Revel Downtown, 440 W. Randolph, in Chicago.
Last year's event raised more than $150,000 to help and support families with children fighting cancer.
"The direction the foundation is going is really nice to see. It's growing and we just want to continue to do this in Chicago," Rizzo said Thursday.
Rizzo and the Cubs' players and coaching staff will be serving food and competing for tips, with proceeds going to benefit pediatric cancer research, care and support.
Participating chefs include Lee Ann Whippen of Chicago q, Mario Hernandez of Del Frisco's, Giuseppe Tentori of GT Fish and Oyster, Joseph Farina of Joe's Fish, David Burns of Levy Restaurants, Molly Johnson of Limelight Catering, Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno, Cosmo Goss of Publican, Doug Psaltis of RPM Italian, Doug Tomek of Uncle Dougies and Joseph Heppe of Untitled 111.
One of the best parts of the event is the food tasting. Does Rizzo like to eat?
"Absolutely," he said, laughing.
Tickets are $200 per person. For tickets and information, visit www.cubs.com/cook.
• Jason Hammel and Samardzija will start the Cubs' Interleague games next Tuesday and Wednesday against the Yankees at Wrigley Field.
Hammel lost to the Yankees on April 16 in New York, giving up three runs over seven innings. He has a career 3-4 record and a 5.04 ERA in 18 games (12 starts) against them. Samardzija faced them once in relief on June 18, 2011.
The Cubs want to keep the two right-handers on their regular schedule. With the off-day Monday, Jake Arrieta will be pushed back and open the series in San Diego on May 22 against the Padres.
• Start times for the Cubs-Cardinals day-night makeup doubleheader on Aug. 30 at Busch Stadium will be 1:15 p.m. CT and 7:15 p.m.. The extra game is necessary after Wednesday's contest was postponed because of rain.
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.