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Chicago Cubs: Former shortstop Starlin Castro makes his return to Wrigley

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Sep 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) waives to the fans after hitting his second home run of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) waives to the fans after hitting his second home run of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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As the Chicago Cubs get set to take on the New York Yankees, we get the chance to remember and celebrate the return of former shortstop, Starlin Castro.

The Chicago Cubs welcome the New York Yankees to the Friendly Confines for an anticipated weekend series Friday. As the two historic franchises meet, former Chicago infielder Starlin Castro makes his return, as well.

The Cubs will celebrate Castro’s six seasons, three All-Star appearances and many contributions he made to the franchise. The ceremony is expected to include a video tribute – and there are rumors the team will also play Castro’s walk-up music as well.

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A trip down memory lane

A lot has happened since October 21, 2015.

That was the day the Chicago Cubs season ended at the hands of the New York Mets, in the NLCS.

Little did we know, but it also marked the end of Starlin Castro on the North Side. After making his MLB debut in 2010, experts and fans alike viewed him as part of a budding Cubs future.

In his first big-league game, Castro went 2-for-5 with his first career home run, a triple and six runs batted in against the Reds. At first glance, it looked as if a gem had been unearthed.

With the old regime of Jim Hendry on the way out, the writing was on the wall – to a degree. Still, the young shortstop represented one of the lone bright spots for a team trudging through another losing season. A little over a year later, Theo Epstein came onboard, beginning his execution of ‘The Plan.’

Castro led the National League with 207 hits in just his second season. That figure remains, to this day, a career-best. This gave him a good start on nearly 1,000 hits during his Cubs’ tenure. More impressive, perhaps, is the fact he did all this by the time he was just 25 years old.

Forced out by the young core

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Chicago Cubs

By 2015, winning was no longer a pipe dream for the Chicago Cubs. A young core rose to the occasion, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Castro.

Top prospect Addison Russell, a key piece of a 2014 trade with Oakland, made his long-awaited debut in April 2015. Later in the year, he officially supplanted Castro as the team’s starting shortstop.

Castro, still hit for decent power, including hitting the second-most home runs in his career at that time (11) and RBI (69). He salvaged a slow start with a second-half hot streak, including hitting .426 in the month of August.

Through it all, it’s easy to understand how uncertainty, caused largely by Russell’s emergence at short and trade rumors, started to impact Castro. The young infielder was seemingly always looking over his shoulder at a player taking his job. During this same stretch, he also learned a new position in second base.

To Castro’s credit, though, he always came ready to play and carried forth a team-first mentality.

New city, same bright lights

Castro missed out on the Cubs’ historic 2016 run, watching from afar in the Big Apple. But he still had reason to smile, getting a fresh start in New York after an offseason trade that brought Adam Warren to Chicago.

Having already proven to be a tremendous impact for New York, this time being looked upon as a more veteran presence on a young club looking to rebuild their own core, Castro hit a career-high 21 homers in 2016.

So far through 26 games in 2017, he’s second in the American League with a .362 average, leads all MLB second baseman in OBP (.402), first among AL 2B in SLG (.543) and first among MLB 2B in OPS .945.

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Though it might seem as if it was just yesterday when a 20-year-old Castro was making his debut and ultimately growing up with the Cubs franchise, it’ll be fun this weekend to remember one of the core guys. One of the good guys.

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