Last time Starlin Castro saw a team like this, the rug was pulled out

Starlin Castro started fast.

As a highly touted shortstop for the Cubs, Castro made his major league debut at the age of 20 and hit a home run in his first career at-bat, finishing his first game with six RBIs. At 21, he became the youngest player ever to lead the National League in hits. Before his 25th birthday, Castro already had made three All-Star Games, but the Dominican native had never made the playoffs.

Through Castro’s first five seasons, the Cubs lost an average of 92.8 games, but in 2015, he finally appeared in the postseason. The long-suffering franchise’s rebuilding plan finally showed how brilliant the future could be.

For Castro, the Cubs made too many right moves.

After years as one of the team’s only promising players, Castro no longer fit in Chicago’s crowded infield and was traded to the Yankees in December 2015. Less than one year later, Chicago’s former centerpiece watched his old teammates end the team’s 108-year World Series drought, but Castro insists that missing out on the long-awaited championship hasn’t caused him any sleepless nights.

Starlin CastroGetty Images

“I wanted them to win,” Castro said. “I’m not gonna be like, ‘I don’t want them to win because I left.’ I have a lot of friends there. I still love them and I felt happy for them to win, and they deserved it. I feel happy for the city of Chicago.”

While the defending champs are currently fighting to maintain a winning record, Castro is starring for a first-place team; again part of a young foundation with increasingly optimistic expectations.

After hitting a career-high 21 home runs in his first season with the Yankees, Castro has been even better this year. Entering Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Castro had 10 home runs through 58 games and was batting .319 with 34 RBIs. Castro hasn’t hit over .300 in a season since 2011.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable here, and it feels very natural,” Castro said prior to Saturday’s game in The Bronx. “I just have done some different things in my approach. I just go out there and try not to chase too many pitches, and just wait on the pitches that I can hit. It’s not gonna be perfect all the time. You’re gonna chase sometimes, but the less you chase, the more you create opportunities for pitches that you can hit.

“I don’t try and do too much up there. I don’t go up there trying to hit a home run every at-bat. I try to stay close, and to the middle of the field, and keep the same approach every at-bat.”

In 2015, Castro was part of an offense that carried the Cubs to the NLCS, featuring most of the roster that would win a World Series one year later.

That offense was impressive, but Castro believes the Yankees’ lineup he’s now placed in the heart of is the best offense he’s ever been a part of; currently, the second-highest scoring team in the American League.

“I think that’s the first time I’ve been in a lineup where everybody is hitting well, the whole team, even the guys on the bench,” Castro said. “We have a really good team. [The confidence] is like 100 percent. We pick each other up, we don’t take any team for granted and we never quit. We go out there to compete, and that’s how we’ve had a lot of success this year. And we’re having a lot of fun, too.”