Starlin Castro 'surprised' by second straight start for Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Is this Starlin Castro's second chance?

The former starting shortstop for the Chicago Cubs was back in the lineup again on Wednesday one day after collecting three hits, including his first home run since June 12. Not only is he starting, he's batting second.

"Yeah, I was surprised I was back in the lineup," Castro said before the Cubs played the Giants. "That's what I want. To be part of the team."

Cubs' manager Joe Maddon was impressed with a change in Castro's approach on Tuesday and wants to see if it will stick. After making poor contact over and over again on outside pitches for most of this season, hitting coach John Mallee had Castro move closer to the plate. The results were three hard-hit balls to right field and a home run to left.

"I'm getting back on track," the always optimistic Castro said. "It's going to be great."

It could be a huge boost to the Cubs if Castro can return to being the dangerous hitter who appeared in three All-Star games in his first five years in the league. That hitter has been missing most of this season as Castro has an OPS of just .596. Maddon used giving a day off to Dexter Fowler as his impetus to playing Castro again. He should get two more consecutive starts as the Cubs face lefties on Thursday and Friday.

"I thought he played with a lot of energy," Maddon said. "The consistent hard contact is nice to see."

Castro has been praised by all involved with the team for his professional attitude in being benched recently in favor of other players, including several rookies. With the injury to outfielder Jorge Soler, it opens the door for more time at second base for Castro and that could come against righties and lefties -- if he continues to hit. Until now, he was a platoon player only starting when a lefty was on the mound.

"I thought it was natural to put him in the 2-hole," Maddon said. "Just the way he's handled this professionally speaks volumes to me and the group."

Will the mechanical adjustment take hold? If it does, then Castro might be a bigger factor down the stretch than anyone thought. Time will tell if this is new life or a short stint as a starter again, but at least he has put himself in a good position for a second chance.

"It's exciting to be in the lineup a few days," Castro said. "Coming off the bench to hit isn't easy.

"I want to keep working hard to be consistent and show I can play every day."