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Starlin Castro returning to his comfort zone

Updated: September 19, 2013 11:15PM



MILWAUKEE — Starlin Castro hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoresheet since moving to the leadoff spot a month ago, but he said he’s more comfortable and he looks closer to the All-Star hitter he used to be than the confused pitch-taker he was early this season.

“I see a much more mature type hitter,” manager Dale Sveum said before the Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday at Miller Park. “He’s going to swing the bat, and his hand-eye coordination is going to do things. It’s one of those things where he’d like to have the season back and all that, but he’s one guy that’s been swinging the bat as good as anybody down the stretch here.”

It’s no accident. After the staff’s failed attempt to preach and teach more patience to the team’s most gifted hitter, Sveum met with Castro four weeks ago to tell him he would bat leadoff the rest of the year and to just be himself, “free-swinging” and all.

That was roughly four months after Sveum “pissed off” Castro by saying every player — specifically Castro and Anthony Rizzo — was accountable to perform or risk demotion.

“Starlin’s somebody that we just want to be himself,” team president Theo Epstein said this week, accepting some of the responsibility for Castro’s struggles this season. “We made efforts as an organization to introduce him to the concept of getting a pitch he can really drive because in the long run it’ll benefit him, but if that can’t be accomplished without him being himself as a hitter, then you just have to let time play its course, and I think he’ll naturally evolve that way.

“I think with Starlin you can try to throw too much at him, which maybe at times we’ve been guilty of.”

Castro is hitting slightly better since the new message last month, including a 5-for-16 series in Milwaukee.

“He’s a pretty unique hitter. If you step back from this year and look at his whole career, he’s somebody who has elite hand-eye coordination,” Epstein said. “He’s somebody who naturally barrels up the baseball with an aggressive approach.

“I think he’s in a pretty good place right now where he’s back to being comfortable. And I think he naturally will become a little bit more selective without losing his aggressiveness.”

NOTE: Catcher Welington Castillo’s status for the rest of the season is in doubt after he injured his right knee running to first base in the sixth inning Thursday. “I felt a sharp pain,” said Castillo, who is expected to have an MRI exam ­Friday.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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