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Joe Maddon hoping former Cub Starlin Castro sustains success

Starlin Castro, who homered Saturday, is off to a strong start for the Yankees. | Associated Press

Cubs manager Joe Maddon praised the Yankees before the series finale Sunday night, saying their hitters are working to stay inside the ball and aren’t in chase mode.

Former shortstop Starlin Castro is a big part of that.

Castro entered the game hitting .381 with a .421 on-base percentage and .584 slugging percentage. Maddon said Castro looks like he’s in better shape, which could be leading to his increased production. Maddon also said Castro is at his best when he’s hitting balls up the middle and to the opposite field.

And that’s what he’s doing now.

“I’m hoping that he sustains it all year,” Maddon said. “You’re seeing Starlin at the top of his game, but I think for me physically, he looks better.”

Szczur gone, not forgotten

The Cubs aren’t thrilled to lose Matt Szczur, but they are happy he likely will get a chance for more playing time.

On Saturday, the team designated Szczur for assignment to make room for reliever Rob Zastryzny. Szczur was hitting only .211 but was a key member of the Cubs’ locker-room culture.

Szczur expects to get more playing time with his next team, and Anthony Rizzo knows he’s ready.

“He loved being a Cub. He’s really embodied what being a Cub is all about,” Rizzo said. “He wasn’t selfish at all. He knew his role. Came every day with a good, positive attitude and didn’t really try to bring anything down.”

Rizzo, who famously borrowed Szczur’s bat during the playoffs last season, said he left behind some lumber to use.

“We’ll see if we can bust them out,” Rizzo said.

La Stella returns

Zastryzny’s stay with the Cubs was brief as he was optioned back to Class AAA Iowa to make room for Tommy La Stella. La Stella hit .267 in 12 games while playing second and third base at Iowa.

“The thing I was focused on, I just wanted to make sure I was getting back into the flow of the game a little bit,” La Stella said. “It had been awhile, it had been a few years really since I was able to play consistently every day and get four or five [at-bats], so just kind of establishing myself and a little different approach, but it felt good.”

This and that

Jason Heyward didn’t start for the second straight day after hurting a knuckle on his right hand Friday.

• The Cubs were featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Maddon was interviewed during spring training and said it was a good experience to be part of the program, though it was a “time labyrinth of sorts.”

Follow me on Twitter @BrianSandalow.

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