SAN FRANCISCO — This isn’t the breakthrough season Starlin Castro envisioned for the Cubs. A three-time All-Star shortstop would have pictured being in the middle of it all when Wrigley Field started rocking again.
But Castro hasn’t pouted since losing his job to Addison Russell, trying to make the best of the situation and reinvent himself as a second baseman. Contributing to a winning team — finally — means more than his stats or his ego.
“Those moments make you stronger,” Castro said.
Castro forced his way into Wednesday’s lineup against the San Francisco Giants, batting second after almost hitting for the cycle the night before at AT&T Park (where Russell arrived late after the birth of his son).
If a very streaky hitter suddenly gets hot, could Castro become an everyday player again?
“Sure,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The consistent hard contact was really nice to see. The fact that he’s taken so readily and easily to second base — just the way he’s handled this professionally — speaks loudly to me and to the whole group.
“This guy is an All-Star-caliber player. He’s just had a hard time this year. And it happens. It happens to all of us. But like I said, I think he’s done everything properly, and we’ll see how it plays.”
Maddon still wants to play matchups and incorporate Chris Coghlan and Tommy La Stella at second base (while Javier Baez is also a likely September call-up from Triple-A Iowa).
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But Castro isn’t looking for a way out of Chicago, even with a feeling inside his camp that a change of scenery might help reboot his career.
Castro is guaranteed $37 million across the next four years, which complicates any offseason trade talks but still doesn’t even take him to his 30th birthday.
Even though so much has changed around him, Castro still feels a loyalty to the organization that signed him out of the Dominican Republic almost nine years ago.
After being a lightning rod for the teams that finished in fifth place for five years in a row, Castro wants to see the next phase of this rebuilding project.
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“That means a lot,” Castro said. “I’ve been here when the team’s been struggling. That’s why I want to (get out there) now that we’re playing so good. I want to be part of this team.”
Castro homered for the first time since June 12 on Tuesday at a place where it’s supposed to be harder to see the ball at night and generate power. But in working with hitting coach John Mallee, Castro has mostly been focusing on trying to blast line drives right back up the middle. Castro’s OPS still hadn’t risen above .600 yet, but he had gone 20-for-65 (.308 average) in his previous 23 games.
Who knows what the next chapter will be in such an up-and-down career?
“For me right now, it doesn’t matter where I am in the lineup,” Castro said. “I just want to be in the lineup every day, to get my confidence back, to get my every-day play back. That’s what we’re trying to do again.”