New Nationals second baseman Starlin Castro met with the media via conference call Tuesday, and the veteran said he had realized how good the Nats were going to be while playing 19 games against them last season. With his season over in Miami, Castro then was able to become a fan of the team as the Nats battled the Astros for the world title.
“I saw every game with them at home and I root for them,” said the former Miami Marlin. “I didn’t know I was going to sign with them, but I root for them. They have (guys) that (are) really fun to watch, like young guys, veteran guys. The pitching staff, the coaching staff I think is amazing. I see all the games. I didn’t get out of my house before I saw the last inning. No matter what, if they are losing, they winning, I think it’s really fun to watch. I was really happy to see what they did.”
He also got to see young stars from his native Dominican Republic blossom on offense. Juan Soto and Victor Robles combined to hit 51 homers and post 175 RBIs as the Nats went all the way to the championship.
Castro said he is excited to be able to now call the duo his teammates, and at 29, with 10 years of experience, is more than happy to be a mentor if called upon to help.
“Of course, I am going to be available,” Castro said. “I’m going to talk to them. I will say how you prepare every day to play. How you focus on the game, that’s the thing that helped me when I was a young kid. Like when I come to Chicago, I have all the veteran guys. How to prepare, how they go to the weight room, how they go to the field, how they play hard every day, focus every day. Things like that helped me a lot and I always asking questions. I think I’m going to talk to those guys. It’s something that I can (do to) help them to do better.”
The Marlins won the first two games against the Nats in an April series last season at Marlins Park. The second game was a 9-3 Miami win. Castro remembers some saying that the Nats would struggle as the season progressed. But he disagreed.
“I remember we play a game against you guys in Miami and we beat them for a lot of runs,” Castro said of that series. “A lot of people say this team is going nowhere. I always tell a lot of guys ‘Those guys are playing bad right now, but those guys can play. You see at the end of this these guys are going to be (able to) win it all.’ That’s what they did.”
Castro was a true iron man in 2019 for the Marlins, playing in all 162 games for a team that won only 57 and finished in last place in the division. It marked the third time in his career that Castro had played over 160 games in a season. Castro said his philosophy of playing hard every day and focusing on his job helped him through a difficult season for the team overall.
“That’s one of the things that I always do. I just come to the field every day ready to play,” Castro said. “I’m always prepared. I never quit. I just go out there every day to do my best. No matter how hot it is or if you don’t have success in that game, you are going to see that same guy in the next day ready to play another game and do better than they did the day before.”
Castro ended up with 22 homers and 86 RBIs in 2019, both career highs. But he had recorded only six homers through the first half of the season. So, Castro decided to make an adjustment in his swing path and the way he positioned himself behind the ball for each pitch.
“I just changed a little bit,” Castro said. “I hit too many balls into the ground. I opened a little bit my front foot. I just say to myself, ‘OK, I just going to try to hit the ball in the air.’ No matter what will happen, no matter what reason is going to be. It’s been tough already in the first half. I just say, ‘OK, let’s pull the ball. Let’s try to do launch angle by hitting the ball in the air and see what happens.’ And it happened in the right way with really good results.”