An All-Star again, Starlin Castro has moved on quite well from Cubs
MIAMI — Addison Russell, the player who bumped ex-Cub Starlin Castro from shortstop to second base in 2015, isn’t part of the All-Star festivities at Marlins Park.
Ben Zobrist, whose December 2015 signing hastened the Cubs’ trade of Castro to the Yankees, isn’t here, either.
Russell and Zobrist went on to become Cubs All-Stars in 2016. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and a few others did, too. Who knows what any of them are up to this All-Star break? Perhaps they’re rearranging their sock drawers, rescuing long-buried lint from their navels or mastering the art of origami. They could be doing just about anything.
But they definitely aren’t donning the uniform of their league. That’s what the 27-year-old Castro is doing, for the fourth time in his career. The first three times — in 2011, ’12 and ’14 — he was representing the team that gave him a shot at living his big-league dream. Now he’s repping a Yankees club that’s reaping the benefits of a player in his prime.
Castro — who won’t play Tuesday night because of a hamstring injury — is batting .313 with 12 homers and 45 RBI. He has a realistic chance to set career season highs in all three categories.
Think the Cubs could use that kind of production in their lineup?
“I don’t know about that,” Castro said Monday, literally waving off the question with both hands.
For the most part, Castro’s Cubs memories are pretty wonderful. He was called up at 20 — the first major leaguer born in the 1990s — homered in his first at-bat and recorded the first six-RBI game by a player in his debut game. At 21, he became the youngest Cubs player to make the All-Star team and the youngest player to lead the National League in hits.
Sure, his defensive errors — and the team’s losses — often came by the busload. But for a while there, Castro was the closest thing the Cubs had to a bona fide star.
Until he wasn’t anymore. Castro isn’t sure when the Cubs decided he no longer was an important building block for the future, but you can bet he believes they underestimated him.
“I have the talent to do what I’m doing for the Yankees,” he said. “I prepared myself really hard for this season. I feel really good. I feel I’m playing good defensively. But I’m just doing what I can do. I’m still a good player.”
There are no doubts about that in New York. Yankees All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez called Castro a “tremendous player and an awesome teammate.” Third-base coach Joe Espada, who works closely with the team’s infielders, praised Castro for his “perfect attitude.”
“Great guy, terrific guy — one of our best-liked players,” said former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, now in the Yankees organization. “And he could be a real good player here for quite a while.”
Castro did his best to move on from the Cubs with no hard feelings.
“I’m always going to be thankful for Chicago and the Cubs for giving me the first opportunity to be a big-league player,” he said. “I miss the city and I miss my ex-teammates, but I’m always going to be thankful.”
It couldn’t have been easy to miss out on last year’s run to the World Series, but Castro shook that off, too.
“It wasn’t that difficult,” he said. “Chicago and the team, they deserved the championship because they’ve been through a lot of bad years. I’m happy for the city of Chicago and my ex-teammates.
“I had a lot of good moments in Chicago, but now I’m a New York Yankee. Out there with the New York Yankees, it feels like my house. I love being a part of a team with a big history.”
The Yankees, with their tantalizing young talent, appear to be going places fast. Castro is more than just along for the ride.
“I’m happy to be an All-Star again,” he said. “But when I left Chicago, I [felt] like I would be.”
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.