Resurgent Castro pitching in for playoff-bound Cubs

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CHICAGO (AP) The music starts and fans clap in unison as Starlin Castro walks to the plate. Teammates in the Chicago Cubs' dugout get into it, and the same goes for everyone in the bullpen.

''It's awesome,'' Castro said. ''It's the most fun thing that we've got all year. The fans have been crazy when that song (plays), get up. I feel really appreciated even if they don't understand what (the song) says. But they still like it.''

Wrigley Field is rocking these days with the Cubs headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. And Castro's at-bats have become a big event.

It's quite a turn considering many fans wanted to see him get traded. But as soon as they hear the song ''Ando En La Versace'' by Omega blasting through the ballpark, they go crazy.

It's catchy tune, with a fast-paced beat. And Castro is rocking and rolling along these days.

So are the Cubs, with 97 wins and headed to a wild-card game at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Benched in early August after struggling most of the season, the three-time All-Star is on quite a tear.

He raised his average about 30 points over the past month and a half to .265. And while his future with the Cubs remains unclear because of the emergence of rookie Addison Russell and the presence of another young infielder in Javier Baez, the 25-year-old Castro came up big down the stretch.

''Everybody's got the same goal here and the goal is to win,'' he said. ''That's the most important thing. Keep working hard, trust myself. I never put my head down. I just kept focused. When they give you the chance, try to take every opportunity.''

Castro has been a lightning rod over the years with fans because of mental lapses in the field. But he has been at his best the past two months - and that goes beyond his performance during games.

He made the most of what could have been an awkward situation, when manager Joe Maddon had Russell move from second base to replace Castro as the everyday shortstop as part of a lineup shuffle.

Maddon was concerned that a 25-year-old with nearly 1,000 hits would check out mentally, that the Cubs would lose him emotionally for the rest of the season. It could have been a dicey situation.

Castro regrouped rather than sulked and came on in a big way at the plate while adjusting to playing second.

''He doesn't make excuses,'' Maddon said. ''This kid doesn't make excuses. He's accountable to everything. How can you not like him?''

Russell called Castro ''an upfront guy'' who accepted the switch.

''He's been a great teammate,'' Russell said. ''He's been supportive. He cheers everyone on. He's a great ballplayer, a great person.''

It probably does not hurt that Castro is playing on a winning team for the first time since he arrived in the majors in 2010.

''I think he's really having fun winning,'' general manager Jed Hoyer said. ''He hasn't been on a winning team and he's having a blast playing. I think that he really put the team before himself and handled the move to second really well. Obviously, he's swinging the bat and playing with a ton of confidence. I can't say enough about the way he's handled his situation.''

Castro was batting .236 through Aug. 6, playing subpar defense and looking lost at the plate, before the Cubs made the move.

He did not play again until Aug. 11 and did not return to the lineup until Aug. 14, when he started at second.

But Castro ended the regular season on a tear, with a .372 average, six homers and 23 RBIs in his last 36 games. It included a six RBI outburst against St. Louis on Sept. 18 that tied a career-high he set in his major league debut in 2010 along with a four-hit game Wednesday against Cincinnati that matched a personal-best.

Castro did make some adjustments, closing his stance and trying to go the other way. He also said talking to his family helped break him out of his funk.

''To see the way he started out the season and to see the way he's been growing so far, I'm proud of him,'' veteran Miguel Montero said. ''I'm very proud of him because he's an All-Star caliber player. He's a three-time All-Star. He's only 25 years old. Nothing that he does with the bat (surprises) me because I know what he's capable of doing. His attitude, his preparation has been great.''

And his walk-up music isn't bad, either.