PITTSBURGH — The Cubs don’t have a shortstop controversy.
That doesn’t guarantee Starlin Castro will be the everyday shortstop from here until 2020. Or that Addison Russell is the long-term answer at second base. Theo Epstein’s front office will make more blockbuster trades and sign some big-name free agents, because that’s how this business works.
Right now, all Castro cares about is winning, not fending off the latest challenger to his position or wondering where exactly he fits in the big picture. He’s having too much fun to worry about those distractions.
“I don’t really think about this,” Castro said. “Just be ready to play every day, no matter what. We don’t have any control over that. Just come in here every day and try to play hard and help the team win.”
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Castro stood in front of his locker with a big smile on his face after Tuesday’s 9-8 comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. On a night where Russell was supposed to be the big story, Castro delivered a clutch hit with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
Castro beat Pirates reliever Mark Melancon, chopping a two-run, game-tying single over the head of third baseman Josh Harrison. Castro went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, lifting his average to .352 and welcoming Russell to The Show.
“It’s good that we all are together now,” Castro said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Castro understands Russell can help him finally play for a team that finishes higher than fifth place. But the Castro trade rumors also started up again as soon as the Cubs acquired Russell from the Oakland A’s in last summer’s Jeff Samardzija deal.
[MORE CUBS: Starlin Castro making a case to stay at shortstop]
Russell came into this season as Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect and made such an impression in spring training that there’s a feeling he’s already the organization’s best defensive shortstop.
“This game answers its own questions,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I just think that it’s great to have multiple people capable of playing those different spots. Right now, you’re seeing Addison get experience at second base, of course, but his bat’s going to get big-league experience, which is really important.
“I’m honestly not worried about it. I really mean what I’m saying. Things will work its way out and the right answers will become more obvious as you move it further along.
“Right now, the opening’s presented right there (at second base). Because of his bat and how (Addison is as a person), he’s able to take advantage of that moment.”
[SHOP CUBS: Get a Starlin Castro jersey right here]
Castro is playing for his fifth manager in six seasons, but this one has the staying power of a five-year, $25 million contract. Castro also gets a little more breathing room now that the Cubs have added some established, invested veterans to their clubhouse.
Castro just keeps hitting at a time when Big Data is stifling offense with defensive shifts, in-depth scouting reports and specialized matchups. Again, this is someone who earned three All-Star selections before his 25th birthday and remains locked up with a reasonable contract that contains a team option for 2020.
“He’s been playing great,” Maddon said. “He’s come on. His defense has been really good. He’s been really good to his left, coming in on slower groundballs, throwing very accurately, getting up off the ground to his feet quickly and throwing the ball well.
“And then beyond that, he’s (producing) his typical offense. I’ve been really impressed with his overall game at shortstop.”
Now that the Cubs are trending upward, Castro is motivated to raise his game to another level.
“That’s the moment that we waited for – for a long time,” Castro said. “(We all want) to be here on one team. Why not? Now is the time.”