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Secret for new Nats INF Starlin Castro: launch angle

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 7, 2020

In this Aug. 15, 2019 photo, Miami Marlins’ Starlin Castro hits an RBI single to score Brian Anderson during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Miami. Infielder Starlin Castro finalized a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, one of a flurry of recent moves by the World Series champions. Castro’s deal gives the club someone who can start at second base and maybe also play some at third, where Anthony Rendon left as a free agent. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)
In this Aug. 15, 2019 photo, Miami Marlins’ Starlin Castro hits an RBI single to score Brian Anderson during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Miami. Infielder Starlin Castro finalized a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, one of a flurry of recent moves by the World Series champions. Castro’s deal gives the club someone who can start at second base and maybe also play some at third, where Anthony Rendon left as a free agent. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)
By Howard Fendrich Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Starlin Castro offered up a two-word explanation for how he ended up with career highs of 22 homers and 86 RBIs in his 10th major league season, earning a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals.

Launch angle.

After a first half of 2019 with the Miami Marlins that he called “tough” because he “hit too many balls on the ground,” Castro said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday, “I just changed a little bit.”

“I opened a little bit my front foot and I just said to myself, ‘OK, I’m just going to try to hit the ball in the air, no matter what happens,’” he said.

“Let’s try to do launch angle, try to hit the ball in the air and let’s see what happens,” Castro added. “And it happened in the right way – and really good results.”

Castro’s deal was finalized Tuesday, one of a flurry of recent moves by the World Series champions.

He gives the Nationals someone who can start at second base and also play some at third base, where Anthony Rendon left as a free agent to join the Los Angeles Angels.

Castro originally came up with the Chicago Cubs as a shortstop, then became a second baseman and has added third to his repertoire, too.

Last season, he batted .270 while appearing in all 162 games, making 115 starts at second and 42 at third, along with two at shortstop.

His time at third was entirely new; Castro called it “scary” initially to play there in the majors without any experience or practice, “not even in the minor leagues.”

And now?

“I feel really comfortable at second base,” he said, “but I know I can play third, too.”

Castro will turn 30 in March. In addition to the Marlins, he has played for the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees and been an All-Star four times.

For his career, Castro has hit .280, with a .319 on-base percentage, .414 slugging percentage, 133 homers and 636 RBIs.

Other agreements for Washington in recent days included free agents Will Harris – a reliever whose three-year deal will pay him $8 million each season – and Eric Thames, a first baseman, as well as returning reliever Daniel Hudson.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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