How Starlin Castro plans to hold off the young gems on his heels

TAMPA — Starlin Castro isn’t ready to cede his spot to one of the Yankees young infielders just yet.With all the attention being paid to prospects like Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar, it’s possible to forget that Castro won’t turn...

How Starlin Castro plans to hold off the young gems on his heels

TAMPA — Starlin Castro isn’t ready to cede his spot to one of the Yankees young infielders just yet.

With all the attention being paid to prospects like Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar, it’s possible to forget that Castro won’t turn 27 until March — and Didi Gregorius is just a month older.

“I know we talk about our youth, but these guys are young, too,” manager Joe Girardi said after Castro hit a three-run homer in the Yankees’ 7-2 exhibition win over Toronto on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “These guys aren’t much older than some of guys we’re talking about.”

But while Gregorius blossomed into one of the Yankees’ best players last year, Castro was more streaky than he would like to be — despite hitting a career-high 21 homers.

“That’s the thing I’m looking for, trying to be consistent,” Castro said. “When the struggles come, keep [them] shorter and continue to fight.”

After a strong start last year, Castro slumped for much of the summer before coming on again late in the season. And with Torres and his fellow prospects not likely to see The Bronx before 2018, the Yankees will be counting on Castro for at least a while longer.

Castro’s blast, his first of the young spring, was a sign that his power would be back again.

“It’s encouraging,” Girardi said. “You know it’s there.”

What Castro wasn’t able to do in 2016 was get on base enough for the Yankees liking.

His on-base percentage was just .300 after it was .296 in his final season with the Cubs.

Castro has drawn a combined 45 walks the last two seasons, which Girardi believes he can improve upon.

“That would be good,” Girardi said.

Castro agreed he can get those numbers up.

“I did it before, why can’t I do it now?” said Castro, who has never walked more than 36 times in a season and whose career-high OBP of .347 came as a rookie in 2010. “I’m going to try to concentrate on that all year.”

Girardi doesn’t think he has all that much to change.

“I thought he had a pretty good year last year,” the manager said.

Overall, though, Girardi said was pleased by Castro’s performance in his first season with the Yankees.

“He had as many clutch hits as anyone we had last year,” Girardi said. “He just needs to continue to become more comfortable at second and grow as a player. I just want to see him build on last year.”

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