Cubs: Starlin Castro looks forward to playing with Javier Baez

Cubs: Starlin Castro looks forward to playing with Javier Baez
March 4, 2014, 5:30 pm
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MESA, Ariz. – There’s no rivalry between Starlin Castro and Javier Baez. 

The Cubs don’t have to choose between their $60 million shortstop and Baseball America’s No. 5 overall prospect. Castro remembers how Alfonso Soriano looked after him as a rookie in 2010. Baez understands his place in the clubhouse and knows enough to listen.

“I talk to him a lot,” Castro said Tuesday at Cubs Park. “Some people don’t have a good relationship because they’re in the same position. But me and him? Nah, (we’re good). That’s what I tell him: ‘Play hard, you’ll be up there no matter what. I don’t know where. But you’ll be there, because you got great talent and you play ball the right way.’”

Castro is still getting treatment for the hamstring strain that will likely keep him sidelined for at least another week. He guessed he might need only eight or 10 games to feel prepared for Opening Day. He said he already felt ready after an extensive offseason conditioning program reshaped his body.

[MORE: Baez continues to make strong impression]

They both have big arms, some swagger and a few defensive issues to fix. But Castro looks forward to playing with Baez, maybe as soon as this summer. 

“For us, the idea of Baez is in the future,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right now, I’m glad Starlin feels that way, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. They both respect each other immensely. And somewhere down the road when that happens, I’m sure it will be nice to see.”

The blueprint would be 2012 Anthony Rizzo, who made adjustments at Triple-A Iowa and crushed Pacific Coast League pitching before getting called up on June 26, dealing with the financial reality and taking the service-time considerations into account.

“As time goes on, Javy gains the experience that we believe he needs to solidify himself as a more complete ballplayer,” Renteria said. “He still has to put in his time and gain some experience and some substance to his game. Because, quite frankly, you don’t want an individual to make a jump and then have to go back again. You want him to come to stay.”

Baez can have another red-hot spring, but he’s already ticketed for Des Moines. He’s 4-for-9 (.444) with a double and a home run through three Cactus League games. He’s 21 years old and coming off a 37-homer, 111-RBI season at advanced Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. 

[WATCH: Castro talks latest with injury]

“He can hit, there’s no doubt about it,” Castro said. “He’s a good player. Everybody knows that.”

OK, there were 44 errors, and only 54 games above A-ball, so Baez needs more time to develop. But could he hit big-league pitching right now? 

“He has the bat speed to catch up to any fastball that anybody throws,” Renteria said. “He starts seeing more breaking balls and offspeed pitches and they start trying to manipulate the zone with him. Do I think he’ll be able to ultimately make an adjustment? Yes. Do I know that he can hit ‘em now? No, I couldn’t tell you that.”     

As Jeff Samardzija said, the players in the clubhouse want more bullets. That’s why Castro doesn’t care about a shortstop controversy: “If you help the team win, you’re there, I’m there, whatever.”