Starlin Castro injured his wrist on a diving play in mid-August 2020, and went on the Injured List before having surgery which effectively ended the first year of the 2-year/$12M deal the 30-year-old infielder signed with the Washington Nationals last winter. Castro was, however, apparently determined to make it back on the field, and he was following the club as he did his rehab work, hoping to be ready if they were part of the expanded postseason field.
“I did watch the games. I followed the guys. I texted Davey [Martinez] all the time. I texted Davey to ask him if I can be with the team,” Castro said of his communications with his old bench coach from Chicago and his manager in D.C. after the injury.
“With the protocol I can’t do it. That’s why I stayed in Miami to watch the games on TV.”
“He missed the game,” Martinez said this week.
“Here’s a guy that plays every single day. It’s hard to get him out of the lineup, and when he was injured last year, the first thing he told me, he said, ‘I’m going to come back this year. I want to come back this year. I want to come back this year.’ And I told him, I said, ‘Let’s get your wrist right, and then we’ll see where we’re at then.’
Castro was 16 for 60 (.267/.302/.450) in 16 games and 63 plate appearances before the injury, providing a brief glimpse of what he could bring to the Nationals’ lineup, but too brief a glimpse.
Coming into camp healthy this year, he said, Castro is motivated to show what he’s able to do with a full season’s worth of at bats.
“They don’t know. Especially a short season last year and then I got hurt after I played I think 16-17 games,” he explained.
“They don’t know me yet. I think that God-willing I feel really healthy this year, my hand is really good, and we’re going to play 162, I think it’s going to be a good season for us.”
“I’m really excited to be here. I want to be in the field every day and do my best to help the team to win,” the 11-year veteran said in late February.
“When you miss the game like he does,” Martinez said this week, “... and he comes back, he came back with a little vengeance. He wants to play. He wants to do well. He’s a free agent after the year.
“But he’s a guy that I never worry about. I write his name in the lineup, because he loves to play the game of baseball.”
In his eleven major league seasons, Castro has played in 150+ games seven times, and he’s played over 160 games three times, twice playing a full 162-game slate, in 2012 and in 2019, and he played 161 total in 2013.
While his manager in the nation’s capital routinely praises the patient approach of hitters in his lineup, Martinez said that he’s not going to try to turn Castro into that sort of player.
“For Starlin, who is a very unique hitter,” Martinez said, “... and we always talk about his bat-to-ball skills, he — he’s a guy for me that we don’t want to take away his aggressiveness up at the plate. So if you start preaching to him about taking pitches and taking his walks, he might not be as aggressive swinging at the balls we know he can hit.
“One thing about Starlin, if you look at him, he can 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, so we don’t ever want to take that away from him. We want him to always be aggressive.”
Are the tools Castro brings to the plate useful for a middle of the order bat? Because that’s where Martinez has put him this spring.
“I think it can be really useful,” the manager said.
“You want a guy that can move the baseball in the middle of the lineup. He’s that guy. He does that. He does it well.”