MESA, Ariz. – Starlin Castro’s hamstring is feeling better, good enough that the Cubs shortstop still plans to play 162 games this season.
“That’s my goal every year,” Castro said Friday at Cubs Park. “That’s why it’s better this happened now than during the season. But I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be 100 percent for the season.”
This is the second straight year Castro has dealt with a hamstring strain in spring training, but he’s walking around pain-free now and expects to resume baseball activity early next week. That injury set the tone for a disappointing season that saw him hit .245 with a .631 OPS that ranked 15th out of the 17 qualified shortstops in the big leagues.
“I feel a little frustrated because I felt really locked in when I got hurt,” Castro said. “I felt so good at the home plate. It was only one week in here, the games started and I already felt good at the home plate. That (feeling of being locked in), it won’t go away. It’ll stay there. I’m going to stay locked in.”
After a failed experiment that tried to turn Castro into something he’s not, the two-time All-Star said he enjoyed working with new hitting coach Bill Mueller. Castro has been doing hydrotherapy and upper-body workouts inside the team’s new Arizona complex, but he wants to get back in the batter’s box soon.
“I want to do everything, man,” Castro said. “I don’t like being hurt. It’s not good to sit down here and do treatment. I prefer to go on the field and run, take groundballs, whatever. I don’t want to be in the pool. I want baseball activity.”
Castro’s lightning-rod status means people will focus on his split-second lapses in concentration, instead of how much he wants to be in the lineup every day. He’s played 158, 162 and 161 games across the last three seasons.
“That would be awesome if he could do (162),” Renteria said. “Being realistic, you’re looking at a young man who has the ability physically to probably be able to do it. (But) if he starts to fatigue or we see fatigue, you want to give him a break. And on top of that, with anybody (who) plays multiple positions, to keep them fresh, to keep them active, to keep them in the ballgame, it doesn’t hurt moving them around.”
Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney played shortstop, his natural position, during Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Barney handled a slow roller and threw out Michael Bourn, Cleveland’s speedy leadoff guy. Given the organization’s up-the-middle prospects, versatility could help Barney in the long run, or perhaps make him more marketable this summer.
“No one knows what the future holds,” Barney said. “I’m worried about today. If I’m playing shortstop today, I’ll worry about that today. I envisioned myself – when I first came up (in 2010) – playing shortstop again. I think I have value there. But I’m pretty good (at second base).”