Its hard to believe, but Starlin Castro is actually more than seven months younger than Anthony Rizzo, and has already played in an All-Star Game and led the National League in hits.
Castro bypassed the Triple-A level that Rizzo dominated for parts of two seasons, and has already lived through the highs and lows that come with being the next big thing.
The vision came to life on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, a lineup built around two 22-year-olds batting second and third and anchoring the infield at shortstop and first base. The Cubs could have this show running for the next decade.
Thats what I want, Castro said before a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets. Me and him, the two franchise (players). Lets see what happens.
This is the grand experiment for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. It was part of the calculus when they traded pitcher Andrew Cashner a former first-round pick with 100 mph velocity who some think has the potential to start to the San Diego Padres last winter in the Rizzo deal.
Its too much to read into one move, one decision, Hoyer said. But we felt like we just kind of needed those building-block players to sort of stack on top of each other to create the kind of team we want.
These kind of debut days are fun. Theres a lot of interest in them. But ultimately we know hes going to have his ups and downs. We know there will be adjustments and its really about collecting a lot of players like this and putting them on the field together.
Castro who went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored and kept his average above .300 had a simple message for Rizzo before he made his debut in a Cubs uniform.
Theres a lot of pressure, Castro said. Theres a lot of eyes looking at him because he was hot at Triple-A. He can come in here and help us.
I told him: Just play. Dont put pressure on yourself, play baseball like you played at Triple-A. Dont think about nothing.
Castro was reminded of his big-league debut on May 7, 2010 in Cincinnati, the three-run bomb in his first at-bat and the six RBI that set a record.
Of course, three nights later, the young shortstop heard the boos at Wrigley Field and had a talk with Lou Piniella in the managers office after committing three errors during his first game at Clark and Addison.
But I put my head up and kept playing, Castro said.
Theres no arguing that point. Surrounded by reporters, Castro stood in almost the exact same spot in front of his locker where he needed a translator almost two years ago. Hes worked hard to learn the language, and is expected to become more of a leader in the clubhouse.
Its tough when youre losing, Castro said, but its a long season and youre working hard in preparation to help your team. The teams gonna be good. We have very good people here. We got a good group.
Rizzo is now on the other side of the room, protection in the lineup and a potential Gold Glove target at first base. The future is here.
Its pretty exciting, Castro said. A lot of people look at him because hes supposed to like a superstar. Its pretty good for me, too.