By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The rumors of Starlin Castro’s demise have suddenly disappeared.
After Castro lost his starting shortstop job to rookie Addison Russell on Aug. 6, it appeared he was on the way out of the organization. In fact, the Cubs were listening to a number of teams’ offers as recent as early August about moving the three-time All Star.
The hitting star of Friday’s 8-3 win over first-place St Louis, Castro has suddenly caught fire after being demoted and rerouted to part-time second baseman status. A perfect day at the plate included a two-run home run to take the lead in the fifth and a three-run blast in the sixth. His six RBIs equaled a career-high he had established in his first big league game, on May 7, 2010.
“I have tried to be more consistent,” Castro said. “I tried to take every opportunity they give me to be aggressive and help our team win.”
Since Aug. 23, Castro has hit .388 with five home runs and five doubles in 22 games. He went through his worst streak as a major league player, hitting .101 (7-of-69) over a 19-game span, leading up to losing his starting job at shortstop in early August.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon understood that Castro had to get a wake-up call.
“Since we did that, this guy has not complained, cried, nothing ,” Maddon said. “He has just come out and been ready to play. When he doesn’t play, he stays ready to come into the game. When his name has been called, he has been ready. I have been nothing but impressed by him the whole time.”
Although most players of his ability and status would have pouted over losing playing time — not once but twice — the spirited Castro has used his personal disappointment as a driving force in becoming a better player and extraordinary teammate.
Despite starting far less since losing his shortstop post, Castro is third on the team with 60 RBIs, trailing only Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo). A subtle change in hitting posture has been a key for the return to hitting form.
“We have worked on staying more upright at the plate,” Castro said. “Before, I was worried about the inside pitch and wasn’t able to get the outside pitches. I don’t think about that now.”
Castro has a contract that runs through 2019. The contract guarantees him $37 million of the $60 million he signed for in 2012.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.