By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The new role that has been presented to three-time All-Star Starlin Castro would be insulting to many young players who have been benched. Castro, who has had a down season, is taking the high road on and off the field to support his teammates after losing the Cubs’ starting shortstop job to Addison Russell.
On Tuesday, Castro was asked to learn the ropes at second base, taking ground balls in the early afternoon along with teammate Chris Coghlan. He saw his first action at second base later in the game against the Milwaukee Brewers, going in as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning.
Castro will let his agent worry about the future while he concentrates on resurrecting his 2015 season.
The way Castro has gone about saying and doing the right things has shown professional behavior and maturity that was unknown about the 25-year-old Dominican infielder. Approached by media members after his first day taking ground balls at second base, Castro made it clear what his priorities are.
“Whatever helps the team win,” Castro stated when asked about his role as a second baseman or backup. “We don’t think about (ourselves). We think about us as a team.”
The move to the bench and possibly the role as the second baseman shook up Castro, but it hasn’t killed his desire to be a part of a playoff club.
“I just want to play,” he said. “I just want be in the lineup. It does not matter if it’s at second or shortstop.”
Castro was asked if he was comfortable moving to the other side of second base.
“I like it — every infielder can play another position, especially in the middle infield,” he said. “I feel good, I think I can be good there.”
Castro hasn’t heard anything about playing third base. That could be another position to learn in order to allow manager Joe Maddon the flexible roster he needs to drive this group into the playoffs.
“I wanted to see him get some work there,” Maddon said about Castro’s new positional workouts. “I wanted him to be comfortable doing it, and he did. He had played second base in the past (seven years ago). You want him to go out to second base and get some work in.”
With the Cubs playing the White Sox this weekend, they will face two left-handed starting pitchers. Castro could start one or both games at second base.
“I really want to get him in there,” Maddon insisted. “I don’t want to force it. I want to make sure it’s more organic and appropriate. Part of the problem is you don’t want to just expend putting him in the game without keeping him on the bench for the right moment. If you start him, he is locked in to one spot. You can use him for multiple spots if he is on the bench as a pinch hitter.”
For now, this is an experiment to help the Cubs better function in 2015. After the season, you are most likely going to see the Cubs looking for a team to trade with who wants Castro, who has suffered through a bad season at the plate before. He has bounced back with good years after bad ones before. He hit .245 in 2013 before bouncing back with a comeback .292 average in 2014.
Castro’s hitting .235 with a .271 on-base percentage this season.
Castro’s agent, Paul Kinzer, has a perspective that if change occurs, it’s not the end of the world.
“Sometimes a change can help everyone,” Kinzer said while in Chicago on Tuesday. “When a team goes in a different direction, there are opportunities elsewhere. In that case, it doesn’t make anybody the bad guy. Starlin would hate to leave Chicago. The one thing he is adamant about is being a team player and not becoming a distraction to this very good team.”
Although Maddon said Castro could be taking ground balls at third base, Castro said Tuesday he hadn’t yet been told that.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.