After admiring them from afar, Castro thrilled to join Nats

Starlin Castro always wanted to play for the Nationals because of two men: Alfonso Soriano and Davey Martinez.

Way back in 2006, when he was still an unsigned 16-year-old in his native Dominican Republic, Castro watched in awe as Soriano became only the fourth member of the 40-40 club in major league history during his one season in Washington.

Castro and Soriano eventually became teammates with the Cubs, and soon after that, Martinez became Chicago's bench coach under manager Joe Maddon. Castro immediately liked and respected Martinez and believed he'd make a great manager someday.

So when the opportunity finally arose this winter and Castro - who had been traded from the Cubs to the Yankees to the Marlins - was a free agent for the first time in his career, he jumped at the chance to come to D.C.

"I think that's a really good organization that I could see playing my two years in Miami," he said. "I always told my family if I could get in a position to make a decision, it's going to be the Nationals."

Castro-Fields-Gray-Marlins-Sidebar.jpgCastro officially became a National today when he passed his physical to finalize a two-year, $12 million contract. On a conference call with reporters, the 29-year-old infielder raved about Martinez and said he's thrilled to get to play for his former bench coach again.

"We have a really good relationship," Castro said. "After I signed, that's the first guy that called me."

Castro said he detected good managerial qualities in Martinez during their time together in Chicago. It didn't surprise him at all when the Nats hired him and watched him win the World Series in his second season in charge, given his excellent communication skills.

"As a player, that's the type of thing we're looking for," Castro said. "To have a guy who controls the whole team who can communicate with the players, let you know what's going on, let you know your role. ...

"For me - and I know a lot of guys are on my same page - I think if we have a manager who's a really good communicator, I think it's easier for you to get to the field every day and do 100 percent for a guy who trusts you."

Communication between manager and player could be especially important in this case because Castro's role with the Nationals could be varied. Though he first came up as a shortstop, he shifted to second base in 2015, then wound up playing 45 games at third base last season in Miami.

The Nats view Castro primarily as a second baseman, but given the current state of their infield - with no full-time replacement yet for departed third baseman Anthony Rendon - it's possible he'll need to move around positions along the way.

He insisted he's comfortable no matter where he's stationed around the diamond.

"Last year in Miami, I played third. I didn't even practice before," he said. "I never played third before, not even in the minor leagues. I did well. I feel pretty good. It was kind of scary the first two games, but I just started to feel comfortable out there. I feel really comfortable at second base, but I know I can play third, too."

For Castro, the town he'll now call home takes priority over the position he'll man in the field. He couldn't help but fall even more in love with the Nationals watching them perform in October from his native Dominican Republic.

"It's awesome. I saw every game back home. And I rooted for them," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to sign with them, but I rooted for them. Because they have guys that are really fun to watch. Young guys. Veteran guys. The pitching staff. The coaching staff, I think, is amazing. ...

"I remember we played against them in Miami (early in the season), and we beat them (by) a lot of runs. And a lot of people said this team won't go (anywhere). And I always told a lot of guys: 'Those guys are playing bad right now, but those guys can play. And you see, at the end of this those guys are going to be (winning).' And that's what they did."

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