In discussing his decision to get Starlin Castro work at third base in Tuesday’s game, Davey Martinez told reporters that the 31-year-old, 11-year veteran played there before, even if just for a relatively brief stretch in 2019, and he can do it again if necessary.
“Starlin has played there before. He played 45 games there,” Martinez said.
“He’s comfortable playing over there. So we’re going to let him go over there and see what it looks like.”
The decision to put Castro at third for the first time this spring did, of course, launch a hundred articles, with speculation that the decision was tied to expected everyday third baseman Carter Kieboom’s continued struggles at the plate this spring, but Martinez was clear that no one should read much into the move.
“We haven’t made any decisions yet on what we want to do, but we need to do it,” Martinez explained. “We’ve got a week. I think it will be adequate. Plus, like I said, he’s taking ground balls there in the morning, along with second base, and then we’ll see what it looks like.”
“This doesn’t mean anything. Like I said, we just want to see what this looks like right now.”
When Castro signed his 2-year/$12M with the Nationals in January of 2020, he talked about the Miami Marlins moving him over to third from second in 2019, after the Fish brought Isan Díaz up to play second base.
“I played third, like not even practiced before,” Castro said.
“I never played third before, not even in the minor leagues. I did pretty well. I felt pretty good.
“It’s kind of scary the first two games, and then I just started to feel comfortable out there. I feel really comfortable at second base, but I know I can play third too.”
Since then, Castro explained after Martinez penciled him in over there on Tuesday, he’s put in work at third base each offseason so he’s ready for whatever he’s asked to do.
He started to take grounders at third again over the weekend before he started there on Tuesday.
“I watched him take ground balls, he looks fine over there, like I said, he’s comfortable over there, he’s done it,” Martinez said. “Remember the first time they put him over there, they asked him if he can play third, he said, yeah, he’s never done it, but he can do it, the next day he was playing third base.
“That’s kind of what he said happened over there, and he played 45 games over there and did really well.
“I want to give him some time to take ground balls, but he said he’s fine.
“He’s got good hands and good feet, so he’s going to get a chance to play there today, possibly tomorrow, and we’ll see how he looks.”
Though Castro got a few plays at third in Tuesday’s game, he tweaked something in his leg (hamstring) while he was running the bases, so the experiment ended earlier than planned, but Martinez liked what he saw while the infielder was in the game.
“He did well. He did really well. He looked very comfortable over there. He had some tough plays earlier and he made them with no issue, so he looked really good.”
Asked what, if anything, Castro needed to work on if he ends up at third base in the long-run, Martinez reiterated that he thought the veteran would be fine there if it’s how things work out.
“Like I said, he’s done it before,” the manager said, “... and I know he takes a lot of ground balls in different positions throughout the winter. That’s just how he gets himself ready.”
“Overall he came in, and got some balls, and went to the line, which is always tough in a transition like that, and made the play, so I thought he did really well.”
Castro’s take on what he needs to work on?
“I just try to work — to see the ball right out of the bat, because at second base we have a lot more time to react. At third, we got to be ready, because they hit the ball harder there, and that’s the thing that I work on.”