By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) After leaving the Cubs and Chicago in July of 2013, Alfonso Soriano returned Tuesday to the team and the city he called home for more than six baseball seasons. The always affable 38-year-old outfielder is back where he began his major league career with the Yankees, whose two-game series with the Cubs continued Wednesday afternoon.
Now from afar, Soriano has watched 24-year-old Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro mature into an All-Star player again after a horrible season in 2013, and he believes it’s all part of the process for young players.
“Sometimes young guys get frustrated and think too much,” Soriano said. “He is getting better on the mental side. He has always had the talent. He has grown up a little bit more. Nothing from the past bothers him. Now he doesn’t worry anymore.”
Soriano believes Castro might have had to adjust to becoming a millionaire. Castro received a $60-million dollar contract in the summer of 2012. He reported to spring training in 2013 about 10 pounds heavier than expected by the Cubs.
This season, Castro is hitting .301 with six homers and 23 RBIs.
“Maybe he thought now that, ‘I got paid, I need to do everything,'” Soriano said. “That was last year, and this season I see he is playing better, and I hope he continues to play like that. He looks like he is having fun again.”
Soriano remembers the maturation process for himself, too. Getting booed at Wrigley Field during his Cubs career hurt Soriano, but he seemed to have a good handle on why they were more angry at him than other teammates when times were bad.
“They would boo me, but I was always happy here ,” he said. “They were booing the contract more than me, I understood that. Nothing I could do but play hard and keep smiling. When I came to Chicago, I came to win. I don’t know if the fans know it, but the players and coaches knew I was working hard and trying to help the team win.”
Even playing at an advanced baseball age hasn’t dimmed Soriano’s love of the game. His eight-year, $136-million contract expires after 2014.
“I want to play two more years, especially if I am feeling this way at the end of the season,” Soriano said. “It all depends on how I feel.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.