“I really don’t look too far down the line, but the way things stack up he will probably be my two-hitter this year,” Sveum said before the Cubs’ first home Cactus League game on Sunday.
Castro has been used in the top four spots in the batting order for most of his career since being promoted to the major leagues on May 7, 2010. After hitting .300 his first two seasons, Castro dropped off to .283 in 2012.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo's ascension to a middle-of-the-lineup hitter helped make Sveum’s decision on Castro an easy one.
“I like hitting in the second spot,” Castro said. “We have a good lineup now and I can get on base and drive in runs in that job.”
Castro, who has been the Cubs’ lone All-Star over the past two seasons, signed a seven-year, $60 million contract last summer. Before his contract was settled, he also was dealing with allegations of sexual assault. The Chicago police investigated the woman’s claims, but found insufficient evidence to charge Castro, who maintained his innocence. It appears it is all about baseball now for the young shortstop.
“With the contract and other stuff behind me I don’t have any pressure on my mind,” Castro said. “My mind is big-time clear compared to last year. I had two things to worry about last season that was on my mind all of the time.”
The Cubs infielder was not satisfied with his numbers or concentration last year.
“Everybody has trouble and has to deal with it,” he said. “I know I am a better player than that. I had too much distraction with the other stuff. It is a reason, but not an excuse. I need to play better and show people my best.”
Castro envisions himself as a great player and an All-Star every season.
“I want to be the best player in the game and the best teammate,” he said. “That is what drives me now with no other distractions.”
Castro also will take on the role of adviser for the young players who make their way to the major leagues. He has taken Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler under his wing this spring.
“Soler will be a great player,” he said. “I must help him and other young players get used to this lifestyle on and off the field. (Alfonso) Soriano did that for me and he told me that I must start doing that for others.”
Soriano had Castro live with him in Chicago when Castro first broke in to the major leagues.