Adjustments have Castro hitting again

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro showed Friday that he continues to develop as a hitter, although it’s not a bad thing that the distraction of contract negotiations is behind him.

A three-run home run in a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates highlighted his four-RBI game as Castro shows that he can add fundamental adjustments to his impressive natural ability to hit.

On his sixth-inning home run against Pirates reliever Jared Hughes, Castro chose a simple approach at the plate over a flashy one.

“It was one of the best guys in Pittsburgh’s bullpen who throws sink with the ball moving down hard,” Castro said. “That’s why I came to the plate and said, ‘I don’t want to do a leg kick because I don’t want to be late.’ That’s why I did one step and swung at the ball."

Castro’s first-pitch home run cleared the left field fence and gave the Cubs some breathing room after the Pirates had cut the lead to a run a half inning earlier.

Asked about another solid September hitting day for Castro, manager Dale Sveum knew exactly what he liked.

“He’s a guy that we all know what kind of hitter he is right now,” Sveum said. “I was more impressed not with the home run as much as he made an adjustment there and went with no leg kick and no stride and hit a home run.

“Those are the things that you’re looking for to see guys make an adjustment from pitcher to pitcher. That’s when you grow as a player when you start doing those kind of things.”

It’s been a hard-working summer for Castro, who has not only learned that making adjustments to pitchers will help him in the long run, he has also been making a concerted effort to be patient at the plate as well.

He went through some uncharacteristic struggles offensively, but now looks to be putting it all together.

“I feel natural right now because I can take my walks and I can make adjustments when there is a pitcher who is nasty,” Castro said. “I can do my leg kick with pitchers that I know throw a lot of breaking balls. I feel good.”

Clearly there seems to be more at work with Castro, though. Since his seven-year, $60 million contract extension was finalized on Aug. 28, Castro has been a more focused hitter overall, batting .319 (22-for-69) in the last 17 games. He has raised his overall average to .281.

“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” Castro said. “My agent told me I was thinking too much about that. I said, 'Don’t call me,' because I didn’t want it to be a distraction.”

He was a bit distracted, though.

“Yeah, but not anymore,” he said. “It’s easier now.”