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Free-swinging Castro is back
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Chicago Cubs haven't had many things go right lately (and by lately I mean the last century), so the need to fix things is in their nature.

That's why I'll give them a pass for trying to fix something that wasn't broken. At least they realized their mistake and corrected it.

The mistake was trying to make free-swinging shortstop Starlin Castro into Nick Swisher.

The Cubs attempted to get Castro to take more pitches, but that approach didn't result in more walks.

In fact, his walk rate actually declined from 5.2 percent in 2012 to 4.3 percent in 2013, and his strikeout rate rose by nearly four percentage points (14.5 to 18.3).

After hitting .297 with a .761 OPS in his first three seasons, Castro fell to .245 with a .631 OPS last year.

He swung at the first pitch in 21.1 percent of his plate appearances, a career low, and saw 3.85 pitches per plate appearance, a career high.

From 2010-12, Castro unloaded on the first pitch in 29.6 percent of his plate appearances and averaged 3.58 pitches per plate appearance.

In his first 38 at-bats this season, Castro is hitting .342 with a double, two home runs and seven RBI.

The 24-year-old is on a seven-game hitting streak and went 11-for-21 with zero strikeouts over his last five games.

The big difference? His first-pitch-swinging rate is back up.

In 39 plate appearances, he has swung at the first pitch 30.8 percent of the time. He's seen 3.54 pitches per plate appearance.

It's an extremely small sample size, but Castro is also hitting much better when behind in the count.

In 2013, he batted .191 when the pitcher was ahead. This year, he's 5-for-16 (.313) in those situations and 4-for-15 (.267) with two strikes. When pitches got two strikes on him in 2013, he hit just .183 with four homers in 345 at- bats.

Both of the blasts in his two-homer game on April 8 came with two strikes (1-2 count and 0-2 count).

A right hamstring strain limited Castro to four at-bats this spring, so fantasy owners didn't get to see his new-old approach on display, but Castro hinted to's Christina Kahrl in late March that he would be getting back to what made him successful in the first place.

"That's what I try to be -- be me," Castro said. "The kind of player that I was when I made the big leagues the first time, that's the thing I don't want to change. That's the kind of player that I am."

Through nine games in 2014, the old free-swinging Castro is back, and so are his numbers.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at

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