CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro hit his 11th home run in Friday's 6-3 win over the Pirates, surpassing his total from all of last season. His home-run total to date is just one measure of how he's bounced backed from a rough 2013.
After struggling to career lows in hitting (.245) and OPS (.631) while falling back in the RBI category with 44 last season, Castro is hitting .290 with 43 RBIs already this season.
With Castro's 2013 struggles came mounds of criticism. Cubs manager Rick Renteria noted that even before he was hired by the Cubs, it seemed as though Castro was to blame for all of the team's woes. Renteria finds that to be unfair, and said this is the first year he hasn't heard from that crowd.
"You can hear when people are being very critical of the young man, at different stages of his life," Renteria said. "Just know that I think that he's adjusting, he's moving forward, he continues to get better and we're really happy about it."
Castro's homer gives him 34 extra-base hits, which ties him with Troy Tulowitzki for the most among National League shortstops entering play Saturday. For NL players at the position, Castro (.290) trails only Tulowitzki (.363) in hitting. Tulowitzki may be on another planet right now, but doesn't Castro deserve a hard look at his third All-Star selection?
"I can't answer that question," Renteria said. "All I know is the guys are doing a nice job, and they're being seen and recognized as doing a nice job. We'll let all that kind of other stuff take care of itself."
Whether or not Castro makes it to Minneapolis this summer, Renteria thinks he and his coaching staff are reaping the benefits of the 24-year-old's ability to learn from last season.
"He's experienced a lot of different ways of being dealt with, and believe me, he takes the good of from everybody that's been here though the years that he's been here and tried to apply them," Renteria said. "I just happen to be right now, and the coaches that are here and are trying to work with him happen to be the beneficiaries of all those bumps and bruises."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.