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2016 Cubs Spring Training Countdown: 13 Days

A few kind words about Starlin Castro.

John Konstantaras/Getty Images

I've already written a fairly long thank-you note to former Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, so this article, noting the 13th day before Cubs pitchers and catchers report (the first workout is the next day, two weeks from today), will be fairly short.

Castro came to the Cubs with tremendous promise. But his promotion to the big leagues at age 20 was in some ways a mark of the desperation of the Jim Hendry regime to re-energize a fading core of players who would not again have a winning record under Hendry.

Would Castro have benefited from more time in the minor leagues? He never played Triple-A ball and had only 220 at-bats in Double-A. He did hit well there (.332/.384/.482), but was still quite a raw talent when he was promoted.

It didn't help when he had that terrific first big-league game, where he homered in his first at-bat and drove in six runs, still a record for anyone in his first major-league game. His immediate hitting success and All-Star berths looked great, but there was always the thought that he was still an unfinished product, particularly in the field.

It didn't help, certainly, playing under four managers in his first five seasons, with their differing approaches and different coaching staffs.

I'll give Castro a lot of credit for working hard when he was benched and moved to second base last August. His hitting after his return to the lineup (.353/.373/.588 with six home runs in 143 at-bats) was one of the reasons the Cubs raced through August and September and wound up with 97 wins.

13 used to be a uniform number not wanted by major-league players, though in 2015 it was worn by 23 different players for 22 teams (the Giants had two, Joaquin Arias and Mike Leake). No one has been assigned No. 13 for the Cubs yet in 2016, and it might be left vacant for a while. Castro, for his part, couldn't take No. 13 as a Yankee, as it's been taken by Alex Rodriguez since 2004.

Instead, Castro will wear a number that was worn by another Cub-connected person while he was a Yankee: 14, worn by Lou Piniella in his Yankee playing days.

I wish Starlin luck with the Yankees. Maybe we'll see him this October.