Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro shows Mets what they’re missing

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro shows Mets what they’re missing
August 18, 2014, 4:15 pm
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NEW YORK – The flavor-of-the-week obsession with prospects means someone will always be coming for Starlin Castro’s job.

Maybe the Cubs eventually move their shortstop to get some pitching. He’s under club control through 2020, he doesn’t have a no-trade clause and no one’s untouchable. But right now it’s time to appreciate everything he’s done before his 25th birthday.

The New York Mets should have a better idea after Monday’s 4-1 loss, the Cubs splitting this four-game series at Citi Field and ending StarlinFest.

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In the media capital, Castro ended the seventh inning with a diving stop to his left, flipping the ball to second baseman Javier Baez. Castro picked up another hit and another walk in his renaissance season, leaving him with a .765 OPS. He has more homers (13) than errors (12) after Sunday’s ninth-inning, game-winning homer in Queens.

“I just try to do my job every day,” Castro said. “Not only here. Whatever stadium I go to, I just try to be on the field every day and do the best I can.”

The New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News had put together stories over the weekend about Castro and the shortstop surplus in Chicago. That would make the rebuilding Mets (59-67) a natural trading partner with their inventory of young pitching and huge hole up the middle.

But it’s way too early to put Castro in blue and orange. Unless you’re prepared to watch Addison Russell, the 20-year-old shortstop at Double-A Tennessee, go through all the same growing pains when the Cubs (54-70) are finally supposed to be contenders.

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For all his power, Baez has struck out 24 times during his first 14 games in the big leagues. Remember Arismendy Alcantara? After the initial burst of excitement, he’s 4-for-38 in his last 10 games and now hitting .208 while trying to learn how to play center. Another converted infielder, Junior Lake, just got sent back to Triple-A Iowa.

That’s not picking on Baez, Alcantara and Lake. It’s just a reminder of how hard it is to find a shortstop able to hit for power and average while playing close to 162 games. It’s a lot easier to admire all the porcelain dolls on the Baseball America shelf.

“(Castro) came into the spring probably just looking to put last year’s season behind him,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He did a lot of things to try to put himself in a position to be fit and do a lot of different things. But I think he’s just having fun.

“He’s working extremely hard on his defense. Obviously, his approaches at the plate have improved. You got to give him credit, because he’s been very consistent.”

A Chicago reporter joked about understanding why Met fans want Castro.

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“I think a lot of people want him,” Renteria said with a smile.

Of course Castro believes he can play shortstop the rest of his career. What else is he supposed to say?

“He’s been an All-Star three of the five years he’s been in the league at shortstop, so he should want to stay there,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I’m glad to hear him say that, and that’s how we see it.”

A New York reporter asked a follow-up question: So you don’t necessarily think you have to make a trade?

“No, not at all,” Hoyer said.

After leaving New York, Castro sees himself making more of the double-play flips and barehanded grabs with Baez.

“I think we’ll be here together,” Castro said. “We got great talent. If we’ll all be together, I think the team’s going to be much better.”