Updated: April 9, 2014 12:25AM
Starlin Castro says he has found his groove, says he feels stronger and says his mind is clear. And one more thing: ‘‘Last year is over.’’
Castro is on a tear that features seven hits in his last 12 at-bats, including the first multihomer game of his career in the Cubs’ 7-6 loss Tuesday to the Pirates.
‘‘He’s just starting to get into a rhythm,’’ said manager Rick Renteria, who has seen Castro drive in five runs since putting him in the No. 6 spot in the batting order Sunday.
That included four Tuesday — on a three-run homer in the third inning and a solo shot in the sixth.
‘‘I’ve tried to get my feeling again at home plate, and that’s what I’ve [got] right now,’’ Castro said. ‘‘I’ve got my feeling back. I just try to hit the ball on the barrel every time. I don’t want to try to hit homers. I know they can come.’’
Renteria, who saw the sixth spot in the lineup as a means to help Castro hit more with men on base and see a different perspective, said he might continue to move him around. Castro probably will be back up to second in the order Wednesday against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.
‘‘He’s seeing a lot of good at-bats from teammates and making a really conscientious effort of bearing down,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He’s seeing the field, and it looks like he’s gaining some confidence.’’
Renteria became the first manager in the majors to be ejected this season when he went after plate umpire Jeff Nelson over balls and strikes with struggling closer Jose Veras on the mound in the ninth.
‘‘I don’t know if that’s good, but OK,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s a fiery guy,’’ said Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, who allowed four runs in the first and couldn’t get through five innings. ‘‘He’s going to stand up for his team.’’
The Pirates drew three walks from two Cubs relievers in the eighth, leading to the winning run.
Handle with care
President Theo Epstein said the Cubs are taking a more cautious approach with prospect Jorge Soler after he aggravated a tight hamstring in the Class AA opener last week.
‘‘We want him to get on the field as much as anybody,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘He needs the at-bats. But you can’t force it.’’
Soler missed much of last season with a stress fracture in his left leg.