3/12 Is Castro ready?
Teenage shortstop Starlin Castro has looked very smooth in the field and on Thursday, went 2-for-2 with his first spring home run, a single, a walk and scored three runs. He was leading off on Friday in the Cubs’ game against the Brewers.
“Because he’s 19, that doesn’t mean he can’t perform,” Aramis Ramirez said. “But at the same time, he’s still a young kid and can get better at the minors and come up and be a great player. I don’t think [age] is an issue.”
The concern with Castro is whether he’ll be overmatched in the big leagues. Can he handle failure?
“It depends on how he thinks mentally and how strong he is,” Alfonso Soriano said. “When you’re struggling and you think too much, you can’t get out of it. It depends on how smart he is and how he takes it. He’s so young. He’s doing good right now. I hope he continues doing good. but sometimes you can have little tests, struggle for one week — how do you get out of that? That’s what I worry about.”
Soriano knows how difficult it is for a young player to try to adjust to the big leagues. When he was 18, he went to Japan to play. He did not have any family, didn’t know the language, and lived on McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken for six months. Was he scared?
“Yes,” he said. “After six months, I started eating a little Japanese food. I had some friends there [after a while] and one of them would cook for us. But the first six months were not easy.”
If Castro was on the Cubs’ big league roster, he would not be as isolated as Soriano was. There are other Dominican players on the team. He’s working on his English.
“I know he has the talent,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to see him struggle. You see a lot of young guys with talent and they get frustrated in the big leagues. He could get frustrated. It depends on how smart he is.”
So, could Castro handle failure?
“Who says he’s going to fail?” Ramirez said. “You don’t know. He could, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. He’s good. He’s not going to hit .330 — hopefuly he will. You can’t ask a 19-, 20-year-old to hit .330. Hopefully, they give him the opportunity.”
Lou Piniella has maintained that the organization wants Castro to get more seasoning and open the year in the Minor Leagues. However, don’t expect the young infielder to be gone in the first or second round of cuts in camp. Castro could stay with the team until the end.
“He is a mature kid,” Ramirez said. “You can tell he doesn’t get too high. He doesn’t think he’s the No. 1 kid, the top prospect. He acts like he’s just another guy. He knows what he’s got and he shows it on the field.”
A scout who watched Castro in the Arizona Fall League said: “There’s not much I didn’t like.”
“We talk a lot,” Soriano said. “I tell him, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, enjoy it, have fun. You have your whole life in front of you. You’re 19-year-old. Just enjoy what you do.”
Castro has looked good both in the field and at the plate.
“He’s good,” Ramirez said. “He’s a good player. And he will be a good player.”
“Hopefully,” Ramirez said.
— Carrie Muskat