Starlin Castro to be ready for 2015

MILWAUKEE -- If the Chicago Cubs were in the playoff hunt right now, shortstop Starlin Castro says he would be playing, not still rehabbing an injury. Never one to sit out a game -- let alone three weeks -- the Cubs and Castro aren’t taking any chances with his sprained ankle that ended his season weeks ago.

“It wouldn’t make sense to play in 1-2 games,” he said Saturday before the Cubs played the Brewers. “We don’t need it.”

A day shy of a half decade in the big leagues, Castro hasn’t sniffed the playoffs. When he went down with a high ankle sprain earlier this month, it was an easy decision: sit out so he can be healthy for the offseason. The only problem is, Castro hates sitting.

“It's big time frustrating,” he said.

That could be his answer for missing games or his team missing the postseason once again. He and teammate Anthony Rizzo did their part in rebounding from underperforming years in 2013, but their teammates lagged behind. More to the point, the front office didn’t deem them ready to win.

“We see a lot of good things in here,” Castro said. “We can show next year we can fight with whoever.”

Castro’s demeanor is to be ever the optimist. He came into spring training in the best shape of his career while a hamstring injury derailed him in March -- not in April or beyond. That was big. He got healthy and put up All-Star numbers while famously returning to being himself at the plate. Batting fourth in the lineup didn’t faze him either. Castro hit .292 with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs this season.

“He did well hitting behind Rizzo,” manager Rick Renteria said. “You could see Starlin hitting anywhere from 2 through 6 in the lineup. His approach really improved.”

The inevitable trade rumors will pop up this winter, considering the Cubs are loaded up the middle with different levels of players. Castro is a three time All-Star, teammate Javier Baez is just starting out his major league career and Double-A newcomer Addison Russell is highly touted. Any could be moved in a deal for pitching. Or maybe they all return next season. The Cubs aren’t in a trade-at-all costs mode.

Castro intends on repeating his offseason workout program with team strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. Then he intends on playing a full season -- including spring training.

“It helped me,” Castro said of his conditioning. “It was a better season than last year.

“It’s important for me to play in spring training.”

The hamstring he injured sliding into second in the Cactus League’s second game didn’t affect him during the regular season, while the ankle injury he sustained this month sliding into home shouldn’t produce any lingering issues either. He’ll take a couple of weeks off after Sunday’s season finale and then get his ankle checked out.

Then Castro can get back to work. Getting to four All-Star Games in six seasons would be quite the accomplishment. So would getting to the playoffs for the first time. The latter would be bigger.

“That’s an important goal for me,” Castro said.