Starlin Castro starting to ‘trust’ himself, hits two HRs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sports Reporter April 27, 2014 9:42PM
Updated: April 28, 2014 7:04PM
MILWAUKEE — It was barely a year ago in this same place that Cubs manager Dale Sveum ‘‘pissed off’’ Starlin Castro by suggesting the All-Star shortstop and first baseman Anthony Rizzo could be sent to the minors if they didn’t perform better.
It was the beginning of the end for Sveum as Cubs manager and the beginning of rough seasons for both young players.
But after hitting two more home runs in Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the first-place Brewers, Castro senses a far more powerful mind-set four weeks into this season — if not a more powerful bat.
‘‘I’ve got my mind really strong after last year,’’ said Castro, who, despite a throwing error Sunday, has looked noticeably sharper in the field, too. ‘‘I feel happy when I go to the plate, and I trust myself. That’s the reason I wasn’t happy last year. I didn’t trust myself. Now I go up there and trust myself.’’
His .292 start to the season includes four home runs, matching in four weeks his previous career total for April. He’s tied for the team lead in home runs and RBI (11). His homers this month have come in the only multi-homer games of his career.
‘‘I can only speak to what I’ve seen,’’ first-year manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘I think he’s playing much better than it seems people spoke of the last year or so.’’
First-year Cubs catcher John Baker, who spent four seasons in Florida with All-Star Hanley Ramirez, says he has been impressed.
‘‘Sometimes when you have young superstars like that, you don’t know what their work ethic is going to be like,’’ Baker said. ‘‘But coming in here and playing with him and seeing what he went through in spring training to get back [from a hamstring injury] and then watching him do his work . . . he wants to improve as a defensive player. I see him out there all the time, even before day games, taking ground balls.
‘‘That, to me, is more impressive than him hitting two home runs in a game. . . . I’ve been nothing but impressed by him.’’
NOTE: After right-hander Jake Arrieta’s two-inning minor-league rehab tuneup with Class AA Tennessee on Saturday, he’s scheduled to join the team in Cincinnati for between-starts work as he prepares to return from the disabled list. He’ll likely join the rotation during the next homestand.