BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Yankees have focused so much attention on the adjustments that Starlin Castro is making at second base, it has been easy to overlook what he could contribute at the plate.Castro is offering reminders, homering for the second consecutive game in the Yankees' 7-2 Grapefruit League win
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Yankees have focused so much attention on the adjustments that Starlin Castro is making at second base, it has been easy to overlook what he could contribute at the plate.
Castro is offering reminders, homering for the second consecutive game in the Yankees' 7-2 Grapefruit League win at McKechnie Field. His fifth-inning bomb off the Pirates' Jeff Locke cleared the distant batter's eye in center field, wowing teammates and fans.
"I think it's a good sign for me right now, just thinking middle all the way and just try to hit the ball hard over there, no matter what," Castro said. "I hit it pretty good."
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Castro tallied double digits in the home run department in each of his last five seasons with the Cubs, hitting 11 in 547 at-bats last year. The Yankees aren't counting on him to be one of their biggest thumpers, but manager Joe Girardi has suggested that Yankee Stadium could boost Castro's numbers.
"I think it's a really good stadium to hit. It's going to be great," Castro said.
Castro continues to put in early hours at second base with infield coach Joe Espada and guest instructor Willie Randolph, but he will also get reps at shortstop to back up Didi Gregorius, as he did on Thursday. Girardi said that he has been pleased by Castro's work ethic.
"I think he's done a really good job," Girardi said. "I think he's doing a good job of being part of this club and I think he's going to add a lot to this team. I'm happy we got him."
Just about the only thing that could keep Luis Severino from earning a spot in the Yankees' rotation would be an injury, and the right-hander had a close call in the fifth inning Thursday, just getting his glove up in time to snare a Starling Marte liner headed for his face.
"I was lucky," Severino said. "I saw it all the way."
Severino whipped four scoreless innings of two-hit ball in relief, striking out five without a walk. Severino said that his fastball and slider were sharp, and with 11 big league starts now under his belt, he senses a difference this spring.
"I feel more comfortable with myself," Severino said. "I feel that I belong here in the big leagues. I can get outs and win."
One day after the Pirates' Juan Nicasio struck out 10 Orioles in four innings -- a rare double-digit strikeout performance in Spring Training -- Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said he was similarly impressed by Severino.
"Severino, that's as fresh of an arm as we've seen all spring," Hurdle said. "It's probably as fresh as the arm we saw yesterday in Nicasio."
• Outfielder Aaron Hicks was scratched from Thursday's lineup against the Pirates because of a stye, Girardi said. Hicks was sent to an eye doctor, and he is expected to miss a day or two.
• Slade Heathcott was in the Yankees' original lineup, batting ninth and playing center field, but Ben Gamel trotted out for the bottom of the first inning. Why? As the Yankees discovered upon arrival, Heathcott missed the bus.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.