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Cubs’ Starlin Castro has a can-duo attitude about pairing with Barney

StarlCastro Cubs swings for two-run home run third inning Wrigley Field Wednesday August 15 2012 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Starlin Castro of the Cubs swings for a two-run home run in the third inning at Wrigley Field Wednesday, August 15, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 19, 2012 6:22AM



Two-time All-Star Starlin Castro has goals in sight for 2013, and they go beyond being a consistent .300 hitter while driving in runs.

His dreams are about teaming with Darwin Barney as the best middle-infield pair in baseball.

‘‘I look at him all the time and what he’s done,’’ Castro said of Barney’s record-setting errorless streak, which stood at 131 games Monday before the Cubs played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of their four-game series. Rain delayed the start of the game.

‘‘I want us to be the best middle infield in the major leagues. That’s why I know I have to keep working on my defense, because I know I can hit better. I want my defense to be better, too.’’

Cubs manager Dale Sveum has made his opinion clear about Barney deserving the Gold Glove.

‘‘To have two Gold Gloves side by side — that’s something that doesn’t happen too often,’’ Sveum said.

Defense was a point of emphasis in general for Sveum this season and for Castro in particular. Though he still leads all shortstops with 25 errors, Castro has made improvements, Sveum said.

‘‘He’s come a long way and there are other things he still needs to get better at,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Coming across the bag on double plays and turning the double play, and his throws are better. But he still needs to have better awareness of things around him.’’

Time is an ally for Castro, 22. And now, with a seven-year, $60 million contract, so is peace of mind.

‘‘My mind is nice and relaxed now,’’ Castro said, admitting the negotiations that began this season on the long-term deal became a distraction. ‘‘I said [to his representatives], ‘Do what you have to.’ ’’

Castro began the season with an 11-game hitting streak as he headed for a second straight All-Star appearance. But his .300-plus average began to slip at midseason, and he endured a stretch from July 31 to Aug. 7 when he went 2-for-28.

Since Aug. 8 and entering Monday’s game, he was hitting .309 (46-for-149), led the Cubs with 46 multi-hit games and had a career-high 13 home runs, 75 RBI and 25 stolen bases.

Castro is the first Cub since Sammy Sosa to have 25 steals and at least 75 RBI.

‘‘I know I’m not a guy who hits .270 or .280,’’ he said. ‘‘I know I am a better hitter than that.’’

Sveum has used Castro in different spots in the lineup but of late has hit him behind Alfonso Soriano. Soriano and Castro are their own valuable combination, the elder veteran mentoring his young Dominican Republic countryman on and off the field since Castro joined the team May 7, 2010.

But Castro is the player likely to carry the mantel forward, already in elite company as only the 28th player in history to have 500 hits before turning 23. He leads all National League players with 511 hits since his arrival in the big leagues.

Yet this season also has been ‘‘tough,’’ he said.

‘‘But I trust these people,’’ he said of president Theo Epstein’s team. ‘‘I think they’ll do good things.’’



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