Castro getting early jump on fresh year

Health issues, offseason turmoil of late '14 in rearview mirror for Cubs shortstop

Castro getting early jump on fresh year

MESA, Ariz. -- Starlin Castro is healthy. His left ankle has recovered from the high sprain that ended the 2014 season early. Castro's hamstrings, which have been problems the past two springs, are strong, too. And his swing is well ahead of last season. He was popping balls out of the park during batting practice on a regular basis Tuesday.

But most important, Castro feels safe.

The Cubs shortstop had a difficult offseason in which he was linked to two shootings in the Dominican Republic. In early December, Castro and his family were leaving a concert when shots were fired. Three people were injured in that incident. On Dec. 27, Castro was at a nightclub when six people were injured in another shooting. He was recognized at both and was questioned, but he had nothing to do with either incident.

On Jan. 4, Castro moved his family to Arizona, which has allowed him to get a head start on training.

"We tried to get away from the problem," Castro said after a workout at the Cubs' facility. "I don't want my name all over the place with those kind of things. It was wrong time, wrong place.

"People who know me know I'm a really humble man, I'm a happy man. Wrong time, wrong place. Those kind of things, I think God put those kind of things in my life to tell me how important I am and to get out of the bad things that affect my name, my career, my family. Those are the kind of things I don't want to happen again."

Castro, 24, had built a large home in his hometown of Monte Cristi, which is located in the northwest corner of the Dominican near the border with Haiti.

"That's the city I grew up in, I was born there," Castro said. "I love it. I'm from the Dominican. I'll never forget my home. [If I go back] I'll just be there having fun, but I'll have fun where I don't have problems. I think the things I'm doing now, the adjustments in my life -- like I said, sometimes God puts you in situations where you have to change."

Castro has told the Cubs' front office he will relocate in the offseason, but he is still deciding on where.

"It's not easy to move right away," Castro said. "I grew up in that town. If [moving] protects me and my family, I'll do it. Whatever is good for me, I'll do it."

Being in Arizona now has allowed Castro to take his young son, who turns 2 in March, to Disneyland. Starlin Jr. was excited to be able to see his favorite character, Mickey Mouse. His father is nearly as excited about the Cubs' upcoming season.

Last spring, Castro was limited to four at-bats over three games because of a right hamstring strain, and he said it took about a month in the regular season to feel comfortable. Now, he's able to catch footballs over his shoulder like a wide receiver -- one of the agility drills he's been doing with strength coach Tim Buss as quarterback -- and can handle anything hit to him at short. Castro says he feels "normal."

"I'm going to start hot right away," Castro said. "Nothing is stopping me."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.