Castro slump a mystery

Starlin Castro was hitting .250 with three home runs and 21 RBIs entering play Saturday. Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

The season-long hitting slump that has affected Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has been somewhat of a mystery to the 23-year-old two-time All-Star. Castro has been dealing with an ineffective approach for most of the 2013 campaign. The infielder's batting average, as well as his power numbers, has been subpar and getting worse as the season has gone on.

Castro was hitting .250 with three home runs and 21 RBIs entering play Saturday. Those are hardly the production numbers the Cubs were expecting when they signed him to a seven-year, $60 million contract in the summer of 2012.

"He hasn’t lost bat speed," said manager Dale Sveum. “It is the timing. Once the movement is going on when the ball is being delivered, the ball will get in deeper than you really think. Everything may be OK in your mind, but here is a timing mechanism that just isn’t working.”

The leg kick has been the stumbling block for the young Dominican shortstop.

“I am trying to keep my mind positive," Castro told ESPNChicago.com. “The coaching staff has helped me to keep my mind positive. Slumps happen. ... This one has been tougher because it’s the longest one I have had. I keep my mind free and stay positive. When I get hot, I will stay hot.”

Although Castro hit a three-year low of .283 in 2012, his career batting average was .297 entering the 2013 season.

"I don’t feel that much different, but I have not hit the ball hard consistently,” he said. “Remember, even when I had 200 hits, I had my slumps and sat out a couple of games [in 2011]. I don’t worry. I just keep working hard on my game."

Sveum said he is considering giving Castro a day off soon.

"It’s getting closer,” Sveum said of a mental health day for his shortstop. “I am thinking about it more, I should say. When we gave people days off because of struggles, it isn’t physical. It is just usually a mental day off to sit back, watch and get a breather.”

Castro has not had an off day since 2011. The Cubs shortstop played all 162 games in 2012 and the entire 58-game schedule so far this season.