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Friday, March 21, 2014
Starlin Castro close to returning

By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Friday that Starlin Castro is close to returning after being out of the lineup since March 2 with a hamstring injury, and he's confident his shortstop will be ready for Opening Day.

"Did all his running [Thursday]," Renteria said Friday morning. "Ran all the bases. Today was a day off from the running but [he's] fielding and hitting. We'll see how he feels at the end of the day and go from there."

Castro injured his hamstring sliding into second base in the second Cactus League game of the spring. The initial prognosis was that he would be out 7-10 days, but Sunday will mark three weeks since the injury.

Castro said Friday he feels "really good" and likely will get some at-bats in a minor league spring game on Saturday.

Renteria isn't thinking about a backup plan yet in case Castro can't play in Pittsburgh on March 31.

"Not even a consideration at this point," Renteria said.

Castro recently indicated he wanted to play in about 10 spring games to get ready for the regular season. Including Friday, the Cubs have only nine days of games remaining, although Castro could get extra at-bats in minor league contests.

It remains to be seen whether Castro's absence from most of spring training will affect his game once he's healthy. The irony is that he came into camp in the best shape of his career after his worst season in 2013, when he batted .245 with 44 RBIs.

"Health being good, we're going to progress as quickly as possible," Renteria said.

Renteria will need to see Castro play the field for an entire game and then in back-to-back situations. He still believes there's time for Castro to be fully prepared but was asked whether the cold-weather climates of Pittsburgh and then Chicago could be an issue for a recovering hamstring injury.

"If he's 100 percent ready, all things being equal, it won't be an issue," Renteria said. "All indications are he'll be 100 percent."