Starlin Castro says he's innocent

Updated: February 24, 2012, 7:42 PM ET
By Doug Padilla | ESPNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro maintained his innocence in the face of a sexual assault complaint, saying Friday the entire incident has taught him a valuable lesson.

With Chicago police investigating a possible sexual assault last Sept. 28, Castro said he has done all he can to clear his name. Charges have not been filed.

"I cooperated with the police," he said from Cubs spring training camp Friday, the first day for full-squad workouts. "... I don't have a whole lot of stuff to say about that. I'm ready to play baseball and will practice very hard to win for this team and win games."

Chicago police said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing. Castro reportedly met with police for seven hours Jan. 10.

Castro, who turns 22 on March 24, was asked what he has learned from the events.

"That you have to be careful because there are a lot of bad people in the world," Castro said.

Castro's biggest supporter has been teammate and fellow Dominican Republic countryman Alfonso Soriano. The two worked out together for a six-week stretch in their native country during the winter.

"I think he is so young," Soriano said. "He didn't make a mistake because he didn't do anything wrong and I believe him. I think that he learned from that thing he had because he's such a great guy and he thinks everybody is friends with him. Now he knows after that happened to him he has to be a little more careful."

Soriano, 36, said he was quick to reach out to Castro with advice and support because there was a similar support system in place when Soriano was a young player with the Yankees from 1999 to 2003.

"I do that for him because I know how difficult it is your first two years in the big leagues," Soriano said. "I'll try to give support and advice. Not only talking about baseball but outside of baseball, too, because he needs help. He's so young. That's my job, to help make him a better player and a better person, too."

New Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Castro looked relaxed during his first workout of the spring and "had a smile on his face all day." Sveum said he doesn't think the off-the-field issues will be a distraction.

"I think he's fine," Sveum said. "I'm not going to sit here and say I know him in and out. I haven't really been around him. This was the first long day I've been around him besides talking to him, actually the day I got the job he happened to be in Chicago so I got to spend time with him there.

"But yeah, there is no doubt about it. He shows you that on the field, the confidence he has and the confidence in his ability. Now it's to fine tune that ability."

Now that spring training has started, Castro insisted that his mind will squarely be on baseball.

"In the beginning it's tough, but I have taken this out of my mind and (started) the preparation for playing baseball," Castro said.

Teammate Marlon Byrd is glad that Castro addressed the issue and also hopes that he can turn his attention to baseball.

"At some point he knew he had to stand up and face this and address it," he said. "He is a public figure and I think this will be a learning process for him. He has to realize he is an All-Star and a big name and there are people out there trying to get us. I hope this does not affect his mind or his game."

Doug Padilla covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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