MIAMI — Starlin Castro is a streaky hitter who provokes extreme reactions on social media, an All-Star shortstop with the ability to make spectacular plays while missing routine groundballs.
This is Year 6 for Castro in the big leagues, and the Cubs have already seen everything packed into Monday night’s 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins in Little Havana.
This shouldn’t be personal with Castro, who works hard, wants to get better and already has 899 career hits at the age of 25.
That begins to explain why manager Joe Maddon stays positive, even in dropping Castro to sixth in the lineup and watching him commit his 12th error at Marlins Park.
“I just think he’s over-boogying a little bit,” Maddon said. “He really wants to do well. Everybody does, but I think it’s manifesting itself in pulling off the ball a little bit. (My message is): Just back off right now. Just a little bit. Just go play and see how it comes.”
You saw that when Castro screamed at himself for allowing a groundball to bounce off his left wrist in the seventh inning.
“You can replay the tape,” Maddon said. “What did he not do? He did not come and get the ball. Anytime he doesn’t come and get the ball, that’s when it breaks down for him. But it’s not just him. That’s any infield.
“That’s the thing we’ve been talking to him (about), ad nauseam actually. Just to really come and get the ball.
“Sometimes he just might not read it properly off the bat, and he gets kind of stuck, gets in groundball limbo there, where he just doesn’t know what to do.”
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The emotions had swung the other way earlier in the game, when Castro made a diving highlight-reel catch in shallow left field.
And Castro, who hadn’t homered since May 8, seemed to find his swagger again in the eighth inning, admiring the ball he smashed into the blue seats out in left field. He has too much hand-eye coordination — and too long a track record in the majors — to remain a .265 hitter with a .644 OPS.
For now, the Cubs will keep saying: Starlin is our shortstop.
“I keep talking about fundamentals and technique,” Maddon said. “If you want to really take it back, it goes to pre-pitch preparation, really bearing down on that. Just to try to get him to always step into the circle the same way prior to the pitch. (That’s) him and everybody else out there.
“Even though he’s been in the league many years, he still has a ways to grow defensively. And he’s going to grow. We’re going to help him grow. But I’ll stand by this guy. I think he’s awesome. By the end of this season, you’re going to see him making all of those plays.”