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Castro to take grounders at hot corner

Second baseman may play some short to spell Gregorius
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are throwing plenty at Starlin Castro this spring, asking him to transition to a new team while preparing to handle everyday duties at second base. Just for good measure, they've also asked him if he feels comfortable taking grounders at third base.

Castro doesn't seem rattled by this growing list of job responsibilities. A three-time All-Star who served as the Cubs' starting shortstop until last season, Castro is hoping that a change of scenery will help him return to the form that has seen him tally 992 hits in just six big league seasons.

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are throwing plenty at Starlin Castro this spring, asking him to transition to a new team while preparing to handle everyday duties at second base. Just for good measure, they've also asked him if he feels comfortable taking grounders at third base.

Castro doesn't seem rattled by this growing list of job responsibilities. A three-time All-Star who served as the Cubs' starting shortstop until last season, Castro is hoping that a change of scenery will help him return to the form that has seen him tally 992 hits in just six big league seasons.

"You just try to learn. I never stop learning," said Castro, who turns 26 on March 24. "If I get in there, try to learn it quick. And when I get the opportunity to play there, I just play good."

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Castro is teamed with Didi Gregorius for infield drills, and to help them build their relationship, the former National Leaguers have been assigned adjacent lockers. If Castro needs a little more help, he could check in with Alex Rodriguez, who successfully moved to third base in 2004.

"There are so many things. The angles are completely different," Rodriguez said. "There are so many plays that you don't have at short -- there's bunting, cut-off and relays, and obviously you don't get to see what's going on with the catcher. You're just reacting. Shortstop helps you out a little bit, but it's not the same."

Most of Castro's focus will be at second base, where he has been working with infield coach Joe Espada to continue developing what was worked on late last year in Chicago. Castro said that he will begin taking ground balls at third base next week.

"I think the important thing is, as we go through this, is how comfortable he is and how comfortable we are with moving him there," manager Joe Girardi said. "If you're ever going to try it, now is the time to try it. You don't want to try it April 30.

"It is a lot, because he is still learning second base as well, but it's something we feel he's capable of doing. We just have to get him comfortable and find out if he's comfortable."

Girardi has suggested that Castro's versatility allows the Yankees to make him the backup shortstop when Gregorius needs a day off, and they intend to audition both Castro and Rob Refsnyder at third base to determine if they have an in-house backup for Chase Headley.

"That's important, that Joe talked to me," Castro said. "He asked me if I can play third base. I told him yes. I've never played there, but that's why it's Spring Training now. I'll start practicing a couple of games and let's see how I feel."

Internally, the Yankees thought that Castro would be an interesting player at second base even before the Cubs shifted him there late last year, having passed their shortstop duties on to Addison Russell.

Castro responded to the move, hitting .353/.373/.588 with six homers in 42 games and prompting the Yankees to acquire him in December, shipping right-hander Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan to Chicago.

"The first two or three games [with the Cubs], I didn't feel really comfortable," Castro said. "I just take early work every day and start every day feeling better. I think the most difficult thing is doing the double play. After doing a couple, I feel great."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

 

New York Yankees, Starlin Castro