Vengeance, love of game spur on Starlin

Veteran's offensive track record makes him stalwart for Nats' lineup

March 17th, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It wasn’t long after Starlin Castro underwent surgery for a broken right wrist last season that he expressed his desire to return to the field.

Castro’s first season with the Nationals was cut short on Aug. 13. He told manager Dave Martinez that he wanted to be ready if the Nationals made the playoffs, but that didn’t happen, meaning that he had to wait until Spring Training to make his return.

A month into camp, Castro’s eagerness to play has been apparent.

“When you miss the game like he does, he came back with a little bit of vengeance,” Martinez said.

In nine games, the 30-year-old starting second baseman is hitting .348/.400/.609. He is tied with Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernandez for the most hits (8) on the Nats. During Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Marlins, Castro went 2-for-2 with a run scored and a walk.

“He’s just such a professional hitter up there,” Patrick Corbin, who started Tuesday, said. “He seems to rack up hits every single season. ... He lengthens our lineup; put him behind those guys that we added this past offseason. It’s good to have him back. He looks healthy and ready to go.”

Castro is showing a preview of the depth that he can bring back to the Nats’ offense this season. At the start of Spring Training, he said, “Wherever they put me, I’m going to do my job.”

Castro gives Martinez the option for a reliable bat in the middle of the order, where he could add to the power of Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Bell and Kyle Schwarber.

“He's a guy that we feel -- he's going to hit in the middle of our lineup [and] could do some damage for us,” Martinez said. “And I'm not just talking about hitting home runs, I'm talking about spraying the baseball everywhere and driving in some key runs for us."

This Statcast chart of Castro’s 2020 offensive performance paints the picture:

“We don’t want to take away his aggressiveness at the plate,” Martinez said. “One thing about Starlin, if you look at him, he could hit bad balls and put balls in play -- and he does it. I’ve seen him hit balls almost on the ground for base hits. We don’t ever want to take that away from him. We want him to always be aggressive.”

Before his injury, Castro batted .267 over 16 games last season. Over his 11-year career, he has a slash line of .280/.319/.414. The four-time All-Star has accumulated 1,633 hits, and he is one year removed from playing all 162 regular-season games in 2019 with the Marlins.

“He’s a guy that I never worry about,” Martinez said. “I write his name in the lineup because he loves to play the game of baseball.”