Cas­tro out to show start­ing stuff to O’s

Af­ter stand­out sea­son in bullpen, right-han­der’s fu­ture might be in ro­ta­tion

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Eduardo A. Encina

ST. PE­TERS­BURG, FLA. — Af­ter re­viv­ing his ca­reer this sea­son in the Ori­oles bullpen, right-han­der Miguel Cas­tro will re­ceive his first start with the club in to­day’s penul­ti­mate game of the sea­son against the Tampa Bay Rays at Trop­i­cana Field.

Cas­tro, a di­a­mond-in-the-rough find in April by ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Dan Du­quette, emerged as a valu­able mul­ti­ple-in­ning reliever at mid­sea­son. There’s no se­cret that the Ori­oles are likely to ex­per­i­ment with Cas­tro as a starter come spring train­ing, but it was un­clear whether the 22-yearold would re­ceive a start be­fore the end of the sea­son.

With noth­ing to play for other than a mid­dling di­vi­sion fin­ish in the Amer­i­can League East, the Ori­oles will get a glimpse of Cas­tro’s start­ing po­ten­tial against the Rays.

Cas­tro has a 3.29 ERA over 63 in­nings, and his 462⁄ in­nings are the most by any reliever in the sec­ond half . Cas­tro had a 2.38 ERA over his first 32 ap­pear­ances span­ning 53 in­nings, but has al­lowed runs in each of his past six ap­pear­ances, post­ing an 8.10 ERA with 11 walks over 10 in­nings, although Ori­oles drop series opener in Tampa Bay for 17th loss in last 21 PG 5 Tonight, 6:10 TV: MASN2 Ra­dio: 105.7 FM

op­po­nents hit just .250 off him in that span.

Cas­tro will be mak­ing his first ma­jor league start and his first since May 29, 2015 for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A team in Buf­falo.

“It’s been a while since I’ve started, but def­i­nitely I still have the same mind­set, try­ing to go out there, do my job, help my team,” Cas­tro said through in­ter­preter RamónAlar­cón. “I’m look­ing for­ward to it. I’ve had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in the mi­nors as a starter, so I’m look­ing for­ward to it.”

Cas­tro’s abil­ity to mix a mid-90s fast­ball, mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup with ef­fec­tive­ness, as well as the Ori­oles’ dire need for start­ing pitch­ing next year — right-han­ders Dy­lan Bundy and Kevin Gaus­man are the only two start­ing pitch­ers cer­tain to re­turn in 2017 — make him a pos­si­ble fit for a ro­ta­tion spot next sea­son.

The de­vel­op­ment of Cas­tro’s changeup will con­tinue to be crit­i­cal to his po­ten­tial suc­cess as a starter. He’s held op­po­nents to a .232 av­er­age on his fast­ball and hit­ters are hit­ting just .143 off his slider. His changeup, a pitch he’s used just 10.2 per­cent of the time this sea­son, hasn’t been as ef­fec­tive, es­pe­cially re­cently. Op­po­nents are hit­ting .333 off the pitch.

“Rat­tle me off five re­ally qual­ity two-pitch starters,” Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “They don’t ex­ist. I think that’s it. I think it’s an arm that hasn’t had a lot of in­nings on it, too. This guy hasn’t pitched 100 in­nings in a year. That’s good and bad? So there’s a lot of things. If you re­ally pin him down, which I did, on what he’d rather do in a per­fect world — he knows the right things [to say]. He’s a smart guy. He’s sharp and he’s go­ing to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble. … This is some­thing he re­ally wants and when it’s kind of given to you and then it’s taken away, I re­ally think he wants to do what­ever’s pos­si­ble to get him back there.”

Cas­tro cer­tainly will be limited Satur­day. He’s al­ready thrown more in­nings this sea­son than he has in any of his pre­vi­ous five pro­fes­sional sea­sons. Com­bin­ing his time at Dou­ble-A Bowie with his ma­jor league work, he’s thrown 871⁄ in­nings this sea­son, which is more than the 801⁄ in­nings he pitched at three dif­fer­ent Sin­gle-A lev­els in 2014 while he was al­most ex­clu­sively a starter.

“He was go­ing to get the same amount of in­nings,” Showal­ter said. “So we’re ob­vi­ously not go­ing to pitch him seven in­nings, but it’s just an op­por­tu­nity to look at him. It doesn’t mean that if he’s great he’s go­ing to be a starter, or if he’s poor he’s not go­ing to be. It’s just a look. And he’s go­ing to pitch the same amount of in­nings whether he started or not.

“It ’s not some­thing we thought a lot about when we were in [the race], or tried not to. But at the end of each day, we stop and take a step back and [ask] what makes the Ori­oles bet­ter as we go into the off­sea­son. What’s some­thing we want to ac­com­plish here in the last week or what have you? That one we thought was pretty im­por­tant.”

Cas­tro has just one ma­jor league out­ing this sea­son more than 32⁄ in­nings — he al­lowed one hit in six in­nings of score­less re­lief on Aug. 3 against the De­troit Tigers. He made four ap­pear­ances of at least four in­nings at Bowie, all in re­lief.

Cas­tro was ini­tially groomed as a starter in the Blue Jays sys­tem, but Toronto fast-tracked him to be a late-in­ning reliever af­ter the 2014 sea­son.

At age 20, he was a can­di­date for the closer role dur­ing spring train­ing in 2015 hav­ing not pitched above High-A.

“What I re­mem­ber is that when they asked me to move, is that the start­ing ro­ta­tion was al­ready set for them,” Cas­tro said. “They al­ready knew who the five starters were go­ing to be. So it ended up me mov­ing to the bullpen.”

He made the ma­jor league club that spring, and re­ceived clos­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but was sent to Triple-A in May.

He mostly pitched out of the bullpen from then on, in­clud­ing in the Colorado Rock­ies sys­tem af­ter he was part of the block­buster trade that sent short­stop Troy Tu­low­itzki to Toronto in 2015.

“The be­gin­ning was a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult be­cause I had a start­ing mind­set,” he said. “The way you warm up in the bullpen is very dif­fer­ent when you’re start­ing a game. So at the be­gin­ning, I was just get­ting into that pe­riod and rhythm — how do I pre­pare, how can I warm up?”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BALTIMORE SUN

Miguel Cas­tro has pitched 63 in­nings of re­lief with a 3.29 ERA for the Ori­oles this sea­son. He is sched­uled to make his first ma­jor league start tonight.

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