MESA, Ariz. — What was supposed to be a “mild” hamstring injury that required seven to 10 days of rest and rehab suddenly looks like it might wipe out more than half of Starlin Castro’s spring game schedule and might threaten his readiness for the regular season.
There’s no indication the Cubs shortstop is a candidate for the disabled list, but his desire to play at least 10 games before the season opens looks like a long shot.
“Our biggest concern is just to make sure he’s ready for the season,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Before we even get to the point where I’m comfortable with him and his baseball skill, I want to make sure that he’s completely, totally good to go physically.”
Castro said he’s running at about 40 percent effort. He took batting practice in the cage Thursday for the first time since suffering the injury March 2.
Castro blamed what he called a surprisingly slow return on the process of working fluid out of the injured area. It took him only 14 days to return from a more painful hamstring injury last spring.
He’s had no apparent setbacks, and the team believes he could return sometime in the next week. No target date has been set.
“I don’t want to rush myself, but I want to be in the games,” Castro said. “I’m working really hard to [get this done]. It’s not good to be out there every day [rehabbing]. I’d rather be on the field.”
If Castro doesn’t return with enough games left to prepare, Renteria said he can load up on at-bats on the minor-league side of camp by batting every inning for a day or two, if necessary.
“We’ll deal with that once we get to that,” Renteria said. “He’s moving, and doing the things we need him to do, and he’s recovering well, and I think he’s moving forward.”
Castro remains optimistic that he’ll be 100 percent, and he plans to steal bases at will this season.
“When I’m done with this, I think I can do everything,” he said. “I’m doing the treatment, but I also do work to get it stronger, too. That’s why I think when I get [done] with this, I’ll be 100 percent right away.
“I like to steal. That’s one of my goals, to steal a lot of bases. I think I can do it because I have a green light now. I don’t have to wait for the sign or nothing else, just when I want to run.”
Castro was just 9-for-15 on steal attempts last year after swiping a career-high 25 bases (in 38 tries) the year before.
“We’re very cognizant of leg issues on any given player,” Renteria said, “but if he’s healthy, and we’re able to execute and do the things the way we like, he was a guy that could steal some bases. It’s not like he can’t do it.”