Castro's improved fortunes thanks to mental adjustment

Castro's improved fortunes thanks to mental adjustment
August 31, 2013, 8:15 pm
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Paul LaTour

In Starlin Castro’s first at-bat Saturday, he was caught looking at a fastball from Philadelphia ace Cliff Lee for strike three. The way the season has gone for Castro, it looked like he was in for a long day at the plate.

But something has changed lately for Castro. Instead of letting that strikeout throw off his game, he refused to let it affect him.

By doing that, he gave the Cubs and their fans plenty to cheer about.

Castro drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run with a sixth-inning solo home run in a 4-3 Cubs victory at Wrigley Field.

[MORE: Castro's homer vaults Cubs past Phillies]

With the season entering its final month, Castro plans to keep doing what he’s been doing in recent games and build momentum toward 2014.

“I want to come into next year with a clean mind and ready to go,” said Castro, whose homer was his eighth of the season and first since July 31. “That’s what I put in my mind. It’s a new start. The first five months (of the season) I don’t even put in my mind anymore.”

Castro doubled earlier in the game to finish 2-for-5. His past four hits have all been for extra bases, all coming in this series with the Phillies. He was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs in Friday’s 6-5 loss.

And he now has hits in seven of his past eight games.

[RELATED: Veteran reinforcements coming for Cubs]

Castro’s heroics Saturday came off reliever Zach Miner. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Castro launched a fastball into the center-field shrubbery to put the Cubs ahead 4-3.

“He’s been swinging the bat with a lot more authority lately,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Seeing him put that kind of swing on that ball to center field with the wind blowing in, that was nice.”

Castro said he hasn’t changed anything in his mechanics at the plate. It’s his mental approach he’s tweaking.

“I was thinking too much, especially thinking about hitting, thinking about defense, thinking about everything,” he said. “This last month I put in my mind to finish strong.”

[MORE: Ryne Sandberg winds up in a much better place with Phillies]

He added that the Cubs coaching staff has encouraged him to just be himself.

“Be me — that’s what I want to be,” Castro said. “If you strike out with bad pitching, so what. Get it in the next at-bat. That’s the feeling that I need.”

Castro, who is batting .242 with 36 RBIs, admitted he would have struggled to overcome that first-inning strikeout had he not changed his attitude.

“In the beginning, if I missed in the first at-bat I’m done — 0-for-3, you know,” he said. “But now if you miss in the first at-bat, you have three left. Keep positive every at-bat.”