Right now, Starlin Castro isn’t going to get benched or traded or shipped out to Triple-A Iowa. The All-Star shortstop isn’t about to switch positions.
Castro is very good at tuning out the noise surrounding the Cubs, ignoring how he’s usually the center of the daily drama and impressing those close to him by how he always seems to stay positive and upbeat.
But Castro also can’t remember ever being in a slump quite like this, certainly not during his 264-game apprenticeship in the minor league system, fractions of two seasons at Double-A Tennessee and no time at Triple-A.
Castro hoped he snapped out of it with an RBI double in the ninth inning of Monday night’s 6-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. It still left what once looked like an easy .300 hitter stuck in a 4-for-42 tailspin that has seen his average drop to .243.
“It never happened to me (before), not as long as this one,” Castro said. “If I slumped (in the minors), it was only like 10 at-bats: ‘OK, 0-for-10, that’s it.’ I know I can get out of it myself. I keep working hard. I know I’m that close.”
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Castro doesn’t want a day off and while manager Dale Sveum said he’s thought about leaving him out of the lineup, he can’t “pull the trigger.” Sveum doesn’t care about the 257 consecutive games Castro has played – “I don’t think we’re getting the Cal Ripken streak” – but the manager also doesn’t see any better options to plug into his lineup.
That talent gap while waiting for the future has made Castro – who was spotted doing early work before batting practice on Monday, several hours before first pitch – the center of attention.
Castro hasn’t homered since April 30, beginning Monday with a .614 OPS that ranked 10th out of the National League’s 11 qualified shortstops. Last week Sveum dropped Castro to the seventh spot, and the theory has been floated that maybe that’s where he’d ultimately fit in a playoff-caliber lineup.
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“I don’t see any of the things that I like to see changed being changed,” Sveum said. “The timing and the mechanics just aren’t changing enough to center a baseball consistently.”
Sveum would love for Castro to see more pitches and do more damage at the plate instead of “chasing hits.” He’s also 23 years old with almost 600 career hits, a seven-year, $60 million contract and two All-Star selections on his resume.
“Sometimes I think too much,” Castro admitted. “But I just put in my mind: Stay strong and don’t think about that. Just play baseball.”