In the early portion of August, Chicago Cubs infielder Starlin Castro was unceremoniously dumped as the team’s starting shortstop. He didn’t start a game for a week, and he was forced to watch the team win six consecutive games without him in the lineup.
Needless to say, the message that manager Joe Maddon sent was not lost on Castro, and he has been busy proving that he belongs in the Cubs’ lineup on a daily basis. Castro made his biggest statement yet on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, slugging two home runs and driving in a career-high six RBI in an 8-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
To cap off the day for Castro, he received something at the ballpark that he’s never gotten to experience: a demand for a curtain call from the Wrigley faithful.
“That was one of my biggest (thrills),” he told reporters after the game. “I’ve been here six years and that has never happened.”
The win dropped the Cubs’ magic number for clinching a postseason berth to just eight, but perhaps just as importantly, it served as a great reminder of just how far Castro has come since finding his way into Maddon’s doghouse earlier this season.
Since he was benched for three consecutive games against the San Francisco Giants in August, Castro has racked up 32 hits, slugged five home runs, and driven in 14 RBI for the Cubs. He has also hit six doubles over that span, and even though he’s had his share of miscues since switching to second base on a regular basis, he has also had some solid defensive plays there as well as he’s made the transition.
“This guy has not complained, cried, nothing,” Maddon said. “He has just come out ready to play. When he doesn’t play he stays ready ... I’ve been nothing but impressed.”
With performances like Saturday’s on his resume, it’s hard to see Castro getting replaced on a full-time basis at second base, but there is still plenty of competition for playing time among the infielders on the team. Tommy La Stella has come up with some big hits recently, and Javier Baez’s improved approach at the plate has got to make the Cubs’ front office happy after he struggled at the big league level last season.
In spite of all of that, Castro is more than likely earning himself a starting job at second base when and if the Cubs make it to the postseason, and with how well he’s hitting in recent weeks, it’s pretty clear that he deserves the shot.