Castro filling role of run producer -- for now

CHICAGO – Just because Starlin Castro has been more productive hitting in lineup spots after the cleanup man doesn’t mean he has found a permanent lineup home.

Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Saturday that if he has to commit to anything, he would lean on Castro’s lineup versatility rather than make him a permanent fixture in the No. 5 or 6 holes. But for now, anyway, he’s going to ride out any productive streak he can get his hands on.

“Actually, he's done a nice job there,” Renteria said about RBI spots like the five- and six-holes. “I don’t know if it’s any different than what he would be doing in the two-hole, but he’s doing a nice job, so we’ll keep him in a place that seems to give him comfort. But he’s not apt to stay there the whole year.”

Castro was batting fifth against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, but it’s actually the No. 6 spot where he has flourished. In five games as a No. 6 hitter, Castro is 9-for-20 (.450) with two doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs and an .850 slugging percentage. His combined numbers as a No. 5 and No. 6 hitter: 12-for-35 (.343).

In four games as a No. 2 hitter, Castro is a solid 6-for-17 (.353), but his run-producing opportunities are diminished. He has just one RBI and hasn’t produced an extra-base hit from the No. 2 spot.

The plan in previous years to turn Castro into a more patient hitter clearly didn’t work and it’s possible his stints in the situational-hitting No. 2 spot could end up working against him. It could help to explain why he has taken such a liking to batting lower in the order.

“Hopefully they have an understanding of who they are as hitters, but it sure is nice to have him out there in case there are runners on base in the heart of the order able to drive in runs,” Renteria said.

As long as there are others who can handle the No. 2 hole, Castro’s days in run-producing spots in the order will continue.

“Fortunately for us we have the flexibility in a lot of guys that can hit in that one- or two-slot in terms of Junior (Lake), (Emilio Bonifacio) and Starlin,” Renteria said. “Like I mentioned before, (Castro) has led off and has done well in the leadoff hole, but fortunately for us right now we can slot him that five- or six-hole.”