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Plenty of at-bats await injured Starlin Castro when he returns

Updated: April 19, 2014 6:25AM

MESA, Ariz. — Starlin Castro will test his right hamstring Tuesday, running the bases two days after taking ground balls and batting practice.

While the shortstop is unsure about when he’ll return to games — “The only thing I can say is, ‘Progress’; I think it can be fast,” he said — the Cubs are making plans to get him as many at-bats as possible.

Manager Rick Renteria said that once he returns, Castro might lead off every inning of minor-league games to give him plenty of plate appearances ­before Opening Day on March 31.

Though he likely won’t come back from his March 2 injury until later this week, at the earliest, Castro insists he’ll be ready by Opening Day.

“I feel very good,” he said. “You start running hard.

“You get a feeling.”

With less than two weeks left in spring training, though, the Cubs have yet to see what might be their most intriguing, realistic start-of-the-season pairing on the left side of the infield.

Mike Olt was scratched Monday as he continues to fight a dead arm. Olt, who has yet to play third base in a game, said his shoulder was fatigued but planned on returning Tuesday.

“Just kinda give it a little break, which I think is the best thing,” said Olt, who has played first in camp. “This definitely isn’t a setback for me.”

Still, time is running short.

Renteria said the Cubs will have a chance to evaluate him — “We know he plays third base,” he said — but Olt said that he needs to get comfortable at the spot.

“Defense, it’s just like hitting,” Olt said. “You need to get out there and get your reps and see the ball off the bat.

“That’s why I’ve been working hard, to make sure I can get out there before the season starts.”

Renteria said Castro won’t have far to go with his hitting; he looked good before the injury.

“I’m not too worried about Starlin, to be honest with you,” Renteria said. “His demeanor is pretty positive, pretty upbeat, and he’s trying to get himself ready for the season.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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