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Starlin Castor’s transition to New York has been seamless.
The hot start, the mention alongside names like Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra, they’re all nice. But here’s why Yankee GM Brian Cashman is so happy about Starlin Castro’s remarkable first series in pinstripes, apart from the glittering stats:
“When you’re new and coming into New York, it makes things easier as you transition if you get out of the gates strong,” Cashman said by phone Thursday.
“If you start off slow, as you know, it adds a lot more attention that’s unwanted, so I’m definitely pleased for him that it’s going well.”
Yes, a careless first game last year by Didi Gregorius definitely affected the way the shortstop was perceived, especially since he was the next guy in the position after Derek Jeter. Carl Pavano, shudder, never got out of the doghouse here.
And Castro’s strong start also, perhaps, alleviates any pressure that might be on Cashman himself for sending useful arm Adam Warren to the Cubs for Castro last winter. Especially since this incarnation of the Yankee bullpen has a few pitchers in it who are, to be generous, are untested.
Plus, it gives the rest of us a chance to play around with puns: A Starl-in is born? Castro takes Starlin-g role for Yanks?
Sorry, we’ll stop now.
Castro apparently won’t, though. His early-season eruption continued Thursday against the Astros, giving the Yanks a talking point beyond their poor starting pitching — the rotation has a 7.47 ERA so far after Nathan Eovaldi allowed five runs in five innings, including back-to-back homers to the Nos. 7-8 hitters in Houston’s lineup.
Thursday, Castro singled in his first at-bat, but was thrown out trying for a double. In his next trip, he smacked his second homer, a drive over the left-field wall off Mike Fiers. He finished 2-for-4, so his average “plummeted” from .625 to .583.
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Yes, we know it’s a small sample.
But maybe Castro’s hitting has been infectious over the past two days. The day after scoring 16 runs, the Yankee offense was sharp again, blowing past a 5-2 deficit with power. Castro and Brian McCann — who picked up his 2015 Silver Slugger Award before the game — homered in the fourth.
Mark Teixeira snapped a 5-5 tie with a three-run shot in the seventh inning. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled twice and Alex Rodriguez got off the schneid — he was 0-for-8 on the season until tying the score at 5 with an RBI single in the fifth on an 0-2 pitch.
In the seventh, Astros reliever Ken Giles threw fastballs of 97 and 98 miles per hour past A-Rod for swinging strikes. But Rodriguez laced a liner to center on an 0-2 fastball at 98 mph, helping set up Teixeira’s homer.
For Castro, Thursday was a chance to perform in front of his mother, father and brother, who were visiting from the Dominican Republic. They were slated to attend the game after missing his big night Wednesday.
“Too cold,” Castro said, smiling. They stayed in at his place and they all celebrated afterward, Castro said.
Wednesday night, Castro knocked in five runs and that made him the first Yankee ever with seven RBI in his first two games with the team since RBI became an official stat in 1920.
Also on Wednesday, Castro became the fourth Yankee to have as many as seven RBI in the team’s first two games of the season, joining some pretty big names — Ruth (1932), Berra (1956) and Tino Martinez (1997), who also had seven apiece.
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Getting Castro was part of the Yanks’ ongoing plan to install younger, more athletic players at positions where they are not locked into big-money contracts. Second base has been a trouble spot for the Yankees since they chose not to re-sign Robinson Cano. No sense reliving the days of Stephen Drew.
“He was a player we felt had a lot of upside still,” Cashman said of Castro. “Some of our scouts strongly suggested that he was on the verge of reaching those high ceilings.
“We’re hoping that he solves that position for us for a long time.”
The Yankees and Cubs first talked about Castro last summer around the trading deadline and revisited the topic during the winter.
“I felt in the right circumstances, they’d be motivated to move Castro and that circumstance was Adam Warren,” Cashman said. “Warren was a tough give because he was a very valuable piece for us. Ultimately, we decided to do it.”
Warren was 7-7 with a 3.29 ERA for the Yankees last year, providing steady work in 17 starts and 26 relief appearances.
“We were sorry to see Warren go,” Cashman said. “He was productive for us.”
But, as Cashman also said, “We’re excited by Starlin’s upside.”
And the hot start, something just right in a town that can be unforgiving otherwise.
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