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Cubs show faith in Starlin Castro with 7-year, $60 million deal

Cubs batter StarlCastro reacts after getting called out strikes end game. The Chicago Cubs lost Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 Tuesday August

Cubs batter Starlin Castro reacts after getting called out on strikes to end the game. The Chicago Cubs lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 Tuesday August 28, 2012 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 30, 2012 6:31AM

Barely six months ago, on a warm, uncomfortable day in Mesa, Ariz., Starlin Castro looked into a bank of news cameras and microphones and talked for the first time about sexual-assault allegations made against him last fall.

On Tuesday, ahead of the Cubs’ 4-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, he signed a seven-year, $60 million contract extension that might say only a little more about the Cubs’ shortstop than it does about a new Cubs front office that preached character and culture change when it took over — and that knew nothing of Castro off the field except for the allegations.

At the very least, the Cubs’ long-term commitment to the two-time All-Star underscores one of the more remarkable perception remakes in recent memory.

Castro, who was exonerated in April when authorities declined to pursue charges for lack of evidence, says he could not have imagined a day like Tuesday when he arrived at Fitch Park that day in February.

‘‘I didn’t even know if the [front office] thought about me in the future of this team,’’ he said. ‘‘It was tough [in February] because I didn’t do nothing. Everybody looked at me like a bad person. And I’m not a bad person.

‘‘Now, with this, it makes me feel better. It’s like the team trusts me. They don’t trust the other things that came out that other people say. They trust me [for] myself, in person.’’

That trust after getting to know him was as big a part of the commitment as his 207 hits in 2011 and his vastly improved fielding at short this year, general manager Jed Hoyer said.

‘‘It was an interesting way to [start],’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘Our first experience with Starlin was that situation. But I thought he and his representatives handled themselves appropriately during the process, and we’ve gotten to know him very well since. And we feel completely comfortable investing in him long-term.’’

The contract, which does not include no-trade provisions, includes a $16 million club option for 2020 (with a $1 million buyout clause) and a $6 million signing bonus.

Half of the bonus is paid up front, with $1 million each spread over the first three years of the contract, which includes base salaries for 2013 and ’14 of $5 million each, followed by salaries of $6 million, $7  million, $9 million, $10 million and $11 million.

One of the big questions raised since the agreement in principal was reached nearly two weeks ago was how the 22-year-old would to handle his newfound wealth.

‘‘He might be a better player now,’’ said Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez, a former Cub teammate and mentor who also knows Castro’s family well. ‘‘He’ll be able to relax and know that his family is secure, and he’s going to be here for a long time.

‘‘From when he came up the first year, you could tell what kind of guy he was. His parents did a real good job with him, and his brother, too. He’s a two-time All-Star that is as humble as anybody. He’s a real smart kid. He’s not a wild kid. He keeps his feet on the ground.

‘‘I don’t think he’s going to change at all because of that.’’

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