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Castro getting in better shape

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While admitting the front office gets trade calls regarding Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, general manager Jed Hoyer reiterated the team’s commitment to him and believes his abysmal 2013 season is an aberration.

“I hope we look back on last year, 4-5 years from now, as a learning experience for him,” Hoyer said from the winter meetings. “A wake-up call, if you will. It sounds like he’s doing the right things this winter to start that process.”

Those things include working closely with Cubs strength coach Tim Buss, who was sent to the Dominican Republic to train Castro. He hit .245 last season, the worst of his career.

“I think we felt like there’s no reason he can’t be a little bit faster,” Hoyer explained. “He can have more range than he does. He’s at that age [24] where he can start to put on that man-strength. ½ He can start to put on that muscle mass now."

Buss added via text: “It was a lot of work and not much time spent eating. If he sticks to the plan he was committed to for the three weeks I was there, he will be in great shape.”

With shortstop Javier Baez, the Cubs' No. 1 prospect, coming off a monster minor league season and projected to start the year at Triple-A Iowa, there’s speculation about which player will be the team's long-term solution at that position. It’s led to trade talk.

“We’ve always gotten hits on him [Castro],” Hoyer said. “People are going to ask about him. I don’t think that’s going to change.”

But it doesn’t mean the Cubs are going to take that bait. Baez will see time at second base during spring training, though he’ll play shortstop once the season begins. That’s still where the Cubs project Castro to be for a long time.

“I would be very surprised if he didn’t show up in spring training in really good shape and ready to go,” Hoyer said.