MESA, Ariz. – This could have been a nightmare scenario for the Cubs, their All-Star shortstop hobbling off the field.
Starlin Castro survived a scary moment during Wednesday’s 11-7 loss to the Dodgers at HoHoKam Stadium. Castro pulled up running to first base and left the game with left hamstring tightness, not the major knee injury manager Dale Sveum feared.
“Thank God it doesn’t seem to be a big deal at all,” Sveum said.
Castro lobbied Sveum for a third at-bat as the designated hitter and reached first base on a throwing error by Los Angeles shortstop Dee Gordon. That fourth-inning scene could have been so much worse. The announced crowd was only 4,572, but word spread quickly on Twitter.
Castro described it as more of a charley horse – “not too bad” – and insisted he had stretched out enough as the DH. He said this had never happened before. He will be re-evaluated again on Thursday.
“I don’t want to be hurt, man. I feel too good this year,” Castro said. “I don’t know what happened, because I worked too much in the Dominican, running a lot. (I felt) tight, but hopefully it will be good.”
[Related: With Baez on the rise, Castro focused on winning a Gold Glove]
At this point, non-roster utility guy Brent Lillibridge figures to be the backup shortstop. But the Cubs would have trouble withstanding the loss of Castro for an extended amount of time during the regular season.
Any best-case hopes for a surprising season are dependent upon good health. The Cubs received good news when Matt Garza (strained lat muscle) passed an upper-body test and appeared ready to begin throwing again on Thursday as long as he remains pain-free.
Castro played in all 162 games last season, and he plans to do the same in 2013.
“There are certain players that love to play. Period,” Sveum said. “Others need some mental breaks or days off to just kind of regroup. But he’s one of those guys that wants to play. There’s no taking him out of the lineup. Before today, I don’t know if he’s even stepped foot in the training room about anything.”