NEW YORK -- On Friday, Starlin Castro did not start for the Cubs for the first time this season after being in the lineup for 82 straight games. He was the only player in the National League to have started in all of his team's games, and got some good-natured razzing from his teammates about being "benched."
"He told me day off," Castro said Friday of the message he got from Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "I don't think I need it, but if he wants to give it to me, I'll take it. I'll be ready for tomorrow or later today."
It wasn't a total break. Castro entered the game on a double-switch in the seventh inning and went 1-for-2 at the plate. Sveum had Castro near him in the dugout for a good portion of the game.
"I wanted to give him a day off before the [All-Star] break, one way or another," Sveum said before the game. "I just want him to kick back one day and just observe before the break, because he's not going to get much of a break. I want him to kick back and talk to him about scenarios on the bench."
Castro is batting .289, and he is 3-for-18 on the road trip. He began the year with a .300 average in his first two seasons in the big leagues.
"I feel good at home plate," Castro said. "I don't feel lost at home plate. I feel good. I feel like I've felt my last two years. [My batting average] won't stay there for a long time for sure. I know that."
Castro will be going to the All-Star Game for the second year as a reserve on the National League team, and he's taking his parents, two brothers and two sisters.
"I feel a little more comfortable there because it's my second one," he said. "Next year, I want to be a starter, that's what I want."
He has learned from last year, too. Castro missed the media day festivities because of flight snafus last year.
"I won't miss the flight like I did last year," he said.
In fact, Castro may get an invitation to travel with the Mets' All-Stars -- David Wright and R.A. Dickey -- on a private plane.
Dempster to come off DL to start Sunday
NEW YORK -- Ryan Dempster was the Cubs' Opening Day starter, and he will be on the mound Sunday when the team closes the first half of the season against the Mets.
Dempster, sidelined since June 16 with a sore right lat, will come off the disabled list on Sunday, returning to the rotation. The Cubs will make a roster move at that time. Chris Volstad (0-7, 7.94 ERA) had been scheduled to pitch.
On Friday, Dempster threw on flat ground and passed all the tests.
"He says he feels as good as he has all year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Friday. "His bullpens are as sharp as anybody's are going to be. It's just a matter of some durability issues maybe. The guy keeps himself in phenomenal shape. That's one part of the decision. If it was somebody other than Ryan Dempster, you probably wouldn't be thinking about this."
Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA) will be limited to 80 pitches, Sveum said.
"It's a tough [injury] to gauge because it's just a matter of how I felt," Dempster said. "I started to feel better, especially the last week or so. It responded well today from throwing the bullpen today."
Of course, as soon as Dempster returns, so will the trade rumors around the right-hander, who is in the last year of his contract with the Cubs.
"That's OK," Dempster said. "[The trade rumors have] been there. That stuff doesn't bother me. I'll just try to do my job the best I can and let those things take care of themselves. I'll focus on going out there and taking it one start at a time, one pitch at a time and just go from there."
Rizzo, Campana stop by MLB Fan Cave
NEW YORK -- Cubs teammates Anthony Rizzo and Tony Campana stopped to visit the MLB Fan Cave on Friday, and they took part in a little question-and-answer session.
The two pulled questions out of a hat to ask each other. Apparently, Campana ended up being the brunt of the jokes.
"They asked who was the worst dresser on the team, and Anthony says it was me," Campana said. "He also called me 'Rudy' because I said I played football. He thought jockey was the better occupation. It was just a lot of him just blasting me -- but it was all right. It was fun."
Didn't Campana get a chance to make fun of Rizzo?
"I had questions like, 'Spell Samardzija,' which I didn't spell right," Campana said of his teammate, Jeff Samardzija, who is a challenge to any writer.
"[Rizzo] was asked who would he sing with in the seventh-inning stretch, and he said, 'Babe Ruth,'" Campana said. "I couldn't say anything about that."
Matt Garza wasn't too pleased with how he ended the first half with a loss on Thursday. How would Sveum grade the right-hander?
"It was about as roller-coaster as you could get," Sveum said of Garza, who is 4-7 with a 4.32 ERA. "There were great outings, pretty good outings and bad outings, or bad innings. He'd probably be the first to say he got beat on a lot of things he shouldn't have been beat on in certain situations. I think he's got to build on it and limit slugging percentage with that kind of arm."
Rizzo is young and still has a lot to learn, but he's impressed Sveum with his study habits.
"The bottom line is I think he has understood not to try to outguess himself or try to figure out what the pitchers are doing all the time," Sveum said. "It's just a matter of getting a good pitch and being ready to hit all the time. He has his educated guesses. He pays attention. So far, that's what I've been impressed with the most is he pays attention to the 120 pitches being thrown to the other hitters and to our hitters."
Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly will be at Smokies Park on Monday to talk to fans and sign autographs. Brenly's son, Michael, plays for the Double-A Tennessee team.
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.