MESA, Ariz. — Starlin Castro vs. Javier Baez is a manufactured storyline for a slow day in spring training. The reality is the Cubs see them working together one day. The hope is they form a dynamic right or left side of the infield at Clark and Addison.
“Castro is our shortstop,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “We have all the confidence in the world that he’ll remain our shortstop. I think he’ll keep working hard and he can keep improving. He knows there’s still growth there. He turns 24 in March. I think he’s got time on his side.”
The blue skies and Arizona sunshine symbolized the fresh start for all the pitchers and catchers reporting to Cubs Park. It matched Rick Renteria’s personality. After firing Dale Sveum, Cubs executives wanted to change the message, hiring an upbeat manager with bilingual skills and an ability to connect with Latin players.
The Cubs need to see the ultra-confident Castro who led the National League in hits in 2011 — and not the guy who listened to too many voices last season and batted .245 with a .631 OPS.
“This is a tremendously gifted individual who has obviously not played the way he’s capable of playing,” Renteria said. “We have to address certain things, but we have to actually figure out what it is that’s making him tick — or not tick the way we want him to tick.
“But it’s not just Starlin. It’s our whole club, the way we approach everybody, the way we have them understand that they have to play for each other.”
Yes, Castro commits too many errors and can drift at times. But he’s still a two-time All Star who gets singled out by his managers and in the media when things go wrong. As for the idea of moving him from shortstop, Hoyer says the Cubs are “taking it off the table” and sounded tired of hearing that question.
Castro won’t be looking over his shoulder at Baez, who put up 37 homers and 111 RBIs in 130 games combined at Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee last season. The Cubs will make Baez their shortstop at Triple-A Iowa, but plan to expose him to second base and third base this spring, preparing for another position and the day he’ll be ready for Wrigley Field.
It’s not easy learning in the spotlight and growing up under a microscope. Just ask Castro, who’s entering the second season of a seven-year, $60 million contract that makes him one of the faces of the franchise.
“Things haven’t gone well (for Starlin), for whatever reason,” Renteria said. “That’s done. I’m sure he’s coming into this spring with a fresh new outlook.”