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Starlin Castro a favorite of N.Y. media, fans

Updated: September 19, 2014 6:27AM



NEW YORK — With all the hype surrounding super prospect Javy Baez’s first two weeks in the majors and all the angst over super-duper prospect Kris Bryant’s left big toe, it might be easy to forget the Cubs actually have a three-time All-Star already plugged into the long-term plans.

“I don’t forget that he’s here,” manager Rick Renteria said of shortstop Starlin Castro.

Neither have New York Mets fans and media, who got a couple more reasons to fawn over the object of their baseball desires Sunday in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory over the Mets that snapped a three-game losing streak.

Castro’s fielding wizardry in the third inning to start a run-saving double play and his leadoff home run in the ninth inning to reclaim a lost lead again stoked the one-sided love affair that has made the Queens baseball community look like Starlin stalkers ever since the Cubs made that trade last month for touted shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

“I’m just trying to do my job every day,” Castro, 24, said with a smile when asked again about fanning the desires of Mets fans to see their team trade for him. “Not only [in New York]. Whatever stadium I go to, I just try to be the best on the field I can be every day.”

Castro, who drew a throng of New York writers upon his arrival to town Friday, insisted that he wants to stay with the Cubs, that he plans to keep getting better and that he expects to be part of the team that eventually starts competing again at Wrigley Field for championships.

And on a day that another prospect — outfielder Matt Szczur — became the seventh to debut for the Cubs this year, and that Baez added the base on balls to his major-league arsenal, Castro showed how he plans to do some of that.

After first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s throwing error put runners at the corners in a scoreless game in the third, Castro picked a hard-hit chopper by Juan Lagares, flipped in one motion to second, where Baez barehanded the flip and threw to Rizzo for an inning-ender.

“It’s one of those plays that you should make, especially with men in scoring position,” said Castro, who gave Baez — who has played second for barely a month — credit for the impressive turn. “He’s going to be awesome. He already looks like he’s been playing there all the time.”

Castro picked up his teammates again in the ninth with his first-pitch leadoff home run off Jenrry Mejia, driven just over the wall down the opposite-field line in right.

It came after John Baker’s passed ball in the eighth allowed pinch runner Eric Young Jr. to take second, and Curtis Granderson’s ensuing single off Pedro Strop allowed him to score the tying run.

“We’ve been playing a lot of extra-inning games,” Castro said of his approach in the ninth. “I just wanted to be aggressive.”

If New Yorkers want to gawk and leer, or even drool, Castro doesn’t seem to mind. And neither does Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who told New York baseball reporters on Friday that the team doesn’t feel compelled to trade any of its shortstops, much less the one guy in the organization who has proved something at the big-league level.

“I know myself, and I know I can be a good player, and I know a lot of teams can want me,” Castro said. “But I’m here, and I don’t want to leave here. I want to be a part of this team when we compete and when we win in the playoffs.”

So bring on Bryant, he says, and Russell and Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.

But don’t forget the guy in the middle already.

“We have great talent, great young talent,” he said. “And this team is going to be awesome.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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