MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Castro what Yanks have been missing at 2B

Castro what Yanks have been missing at 2B

NEW YORK -- It has been three years since Robinson Cano fled the Yankees for Seattle as a free agent, and the Yanks may have finally found a second baseman to replace him.

It has only been two games at Yankee Stadium, but right now, Starlin Castro is breathing chilly, but rarified air.

His seven RBIs thus far are the most by anyone playing his first two games for the Yankees since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920. Furthermore, only three other Yankees have had that many RBIs in the first two games of a season -- Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra and Tino Martinez.

Talk about heady company. It may not be time to make a place for Castro's plaque yet in Monument Park, but he's on his way.

"This means a lot, especially to be mentioned with those guys who are so big in baseball," Castro said after going 4-for-5 with a three-run homer and five RBIs in Wednesday night's 16-6 clobbering of the Astros. "I feel really good to make that group."

Hitting eighth in the lineup on Wednesday night, the righty-swinging Castro had a run-scoring single in the first inning and an inning later smashed his three-run homer into the far depths of left-center field.

The game was well out of reach in the sixth when Castro launched a double over the head of Houston's speedy center fielder, Carlos Gomez. And in the seventh, he worked through a nine-pitch at-bat and back from an 0-2 count against reliever Josh Fields to inside-out a line drive, RBI single to right.

That might have been his most impressive at-bat of the night.

"That's what I was looking for," Castro said. "I was looking for a slider and thinking middle of the field over all the way. He hung it and I put it out there."

Add a two-out, two-run double off Dallas Keuchel in the second inning of Tuesday's season-opening Yankees loss and Castro has five hits and those seven RBIs in his first two games.

"He looks like he's hitting the ball off a tee right now," said Carlos Beltran, who added a homer to go along with the three-run shots hit by Castro and Mark Teixeira on Wednesday night.

It should be noted that Castro has been scalding the ball all spring, hitting .367 with two homers and 11 RBIs for the Yankees in the Grapefruit League.

Told about Beltran's comment, Castro said: "That's what he told me in the shower right now. I feel pretty good at the plate. It's a good opportunity for me to be in this organization. I'm just coming in with the same plan I had in Spring Training. Just looking to hit the ball middle all the way, and that's working good for me right now."

The Yankees have tried eight second basemen since Cano left via free agency and landed in Seattle. The roster of his attempted replacements: Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Jose Pirela in 2014. Drew, Pirela, Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan, Gregorio Petit and Rob Refsnyder in 2015. Only Ackley remains with the team.

Castro was obtained from the Cubs last Dec. 17 in exchange for pitcher Adam Warren and Ryan, who has since been released and signed with the Nationals.

Castro had become excess baggage in Chicago with the emergence of shortstop Addison Russell. Castro was the starting shortstop for the Cubs for five-plus seasons and moved over to second base last year, playing 38 games there toward the end of the regular season and nine more in the postseason before the Cubs were swept by the Mets in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs then signed free agent Ben Zobrist to play second base this season.

Castro is 26 years old and the Yankees have him under control through 2019 on the back end of a seven-year, $60 million contract. If it all works out, the Yanks have a $16 million option or a $1 million buyout on Castro for 2020. 

It wasn't so long ago that Derek Jeter and Cano were the stars up the middle for Bombers. Jeter retired in 2014 and was replaced at short last year by Didi Gregorius, also 26. Certainly, Gregorius and Castro could be their future.

"I think [general manager] Brian [Cashman] has done a good job replacing those two with youthful players," manager Joe Girardi said. "Jeter and Cano were here for a long time."

About Castro, in particular, Girardi said: "He hit very well in Spring Training. When you think about it, before he recently turned 26, he almost had a thousand hits. That's a lot of hits for someone that age. We felt that he would be big in our lineup. That he gave us a lot better balance than we've had the last couple of years, and that he would do a good job at second base. All of that, so far so good."

To Girardi's point, Castro now has 997 hits, certainly on a pace for 3,000 if he remains vital and healthy. Between Gregorius and Castro, the pair was 7-for-10 on Wednesday night, 9-for-16 with two homers and eight RBIs so far this week against the Astros. That's a lot of production thus far from the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup.

Gregorius came to New York from the D-backs in a three-way deal with Detroit after the 2014 season. Castro traded the curse of the Billy Goat for an organization that has won 27 World Series championships.

"I'll take the 27 championships," Castro said. "We're here to make it 28."

As Girardi said, so far so good, at least after two games.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.