Miami Marlins

Adjustments and a bat change. A look at what’s behind Starlin Castro’s second-half surge

Starlin Castro made the necessary adjustments to successfully pull off a midseason position switch for the Miami Marlins. He has also made the necessary adjustments at the plate.

In early August, Castro accepted the move from his traditional second base spot to third base after the Marlins called up Isan Diaz, who is expected to be the organization’s second baseman of the future.

With Castro willing to make the switch, it has allowed him to remain in the lineup and that’s certainly been a good thing for the Marlins’ offense. Entering Saturday’s game against the Nationals at Marlins Park, Castro was hitting .308 with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 46 RBI over 65 games since the All-Star break.

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“He has been a manager’s dream,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Castro. “You wouldn’t think about not playing him. And he doesn’t want to not play, ever. He’s just a guy who has been consistent and has gotten better as the season has gone on. There were some rough patches early, but he’s been on a pretty good roll.”

Those rough patches came during the first half of the season, as Castro hit .230 with five home runs and 33 RBI over his first 82 games.

But Castro’s second-half surge has made 2019 one of the best seasons of his career. He entered Saturday hitting .271 with 21 home runs (matches a career-high) and 80 RBI (new career-high).

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What has been the difference for the 29-year-old Castro?

“I’ve just been feeling good at the plate after the All-Star break and I drive the ball a lot,” Castro said. “For me, that’s really good after starting the season slow. Like I always say, you can’t do your season in two months. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m feeling good at the plate, and driving the ball more.”

Teammate Miguel Rojas revealed Castro also made a midseason bat change, which he believes has helped Castro along with a minor mechanical adjustment.

“Mechanically, he made just a little adjustment to drive the ball more in the air instead of hard ground balls,” Rojas said. “I think he was hitting the ball really well in the first half, but he was hitting a lot of balls on the ground and they turned into outs.

“And if you ask him, he changed his bat. So after changing his bat, he started feeling much better about himself at the plate. Those are the kind of things in the middle of the season, when you’re not having a good one, you change your bat and all of a sudden you start hitting the ball well.”

Castro said he’s “just trying to finish strong.” Trying to finish the season strong and possibly trying to finish off his Marlins tenure strong.

Though the Marlins are expected to exercise the $1 million buyout on Castro instead of paying him $16 million next season, the team could consider signing him to a reasonable team-friendly deal, now knowing he can play at second base, shortstop or third base.

“The way that he went to third base and learned the position right away, and he never played third base in his life. It’s pretty fun to watch,” Rojas said. “I’m so proud of him because that’s the way baseball is going now. You have to be able to play in different positions, and if you do that then your value is going to go up.

“I’m happy for him because I know he has an option [in his contract] after this year. Hopefully they pick it up here. But if not, he’s going to hit free agency and his value is going to be higher because teams are going to know he can play different positions.”

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