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Castro shows some pop at the top

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Shortstop Starlin Castro batted leadoff once during his rookie season, on Aug. 8 against Cincinnati, and went 0-for-4.

His second time Sunday was markedly improved, with two triples in a 3-for-4 performance. But the leadoff spot won’t necessarily be his, manager Mike Quade said.

‘‘He just keeps playing, and good for him,’’ Quade said. ‘‘I’m not too prejudiced that if he didn’t have a good day, it wouldn’t be OK, but he did fine and in an exciting way.’’

Quade first said Castro would lead off Sunday because of matchups and likely return to batting second today against the Diamondbacks. But with a pitching change by Arizona to a left-hander, Joe Saunders, Quade’s plans to put Kosuke Fukudome back at the top could change.

Castro, who just turned 21 and is the youngest player in the majors, has only one concern.

‘‘I don’t care what spot he puts me. I want to play baseball,’’ he said.

Quade discussed his decision first with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and with Castro, who has lifted his batting average to a sizzling .615 (8-for-13).

‘‘I’m not surprised,’’ mentor Alfonso Soriano said of Castro’s performance. ‘‘What I saw from him last year, he was only 20, but he thinks like a 25- or 26-year-old. I’m very proud of him. He acts like a veteran player. Anywhere you put him, he’ll do his job. He has too much talent.’’

Carlos Pena also had high praise for Castro.

‘‘It was truly impressive, not only making some great plays at shortstop, but his hitting,’’ he said. ‘‘He just turned 21. It’s unbelievable. I love his makeup. The way he thinks is way beyond his years.’’

Castro could eventually evolve into a No. 3 hitter.

‘‘He’ll be somewhere at the top of a lineup,’’ Quade said. ‘‘He’s got the ability to be a real special player. He’s grown by leaps and bounds from last year.

‘‘I don’t think he had a great winter in the Dominican, but I don’t care. Since he got to spring training, his work habits have been great. Growing up is about a lot more than performance.

‘‘All the little things you see, his timing and footwork [defensively], he’s getting his feet right, and all of that is part of growing up. We’re talking about a 21-year-old kid.’’

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