Detroit Tigers’ Harold Castro adds pitching to his positional resume
Detroit – So there he was on Monday, minding his own business in the dugout for the eighth inning. He thought that with the Tigers down 15-1, he might not be able to be called when suddenly bank coach George Lombard was at his side.
“He said,” How is your arm? “Said Harold Castro.” I said it’s good. He said, “OK, you’re going to throw the ninth.”
Throw the ninth? Castro, a super utility player, has played every position on the field except catcher and pitcher. He hadn’t played in the minor league in Venezuela since his days. But hey whatever team player let’s do this.
When catcher Wilson Ramos went out to speak to him before the inning, Castro laid out his arsenal.
“I said I throw splinters, change, slider, cutter, everything,” Castro said with a smile. “I said you just call it and I’ll throw it. We were kidding. Fastball, that’s it. “
The joke stopped when the first batsman he faced stepped into the box – of course, it was Nelson Cruz who already made two statcast-breaking home runs in the game.
“I know that as a batsman it is difficult to hit position players,” said Castro. “So I was just trying to throw Wilson the ball right in the middle and get her to take herself out. It’s tough because as a batsman you want to do more. You know it gets easy, it gets slower, and you try to do more – and that’s exactly what happens. “
Cruz launched a 72-mile heater at the base of the left field wall, where JaCoby Jones caught up with her. Castro went to Max Kepler but let Brent Rooker fly to the right and Jake Cave into second place.
Nine parking spaces and out. As both Ramos and manager AJ Hinch later said, it was perhaps the Tigers’ fastest inning of the day.
“It was fun,” said Castro. “The first time, so, yeah, pretty funny. I was just trying to throw the ball right there, not throwing it really hard or something. Just try to put it in the middle and they will make up for themselves. “
It was a refreshing take on a day when the real Tiger 10 pitchers went.
But this wasn’t the first time the tigers attacked Castro.
He was back home in Venezuela in late September 2018, waiting to play for Caracas winter ball after finishing his season at Triple-A Toledo. He had been with the Tigers since he was 17 in 2011, and that was as close to the big leagues as he got it.
Then he got a call from Al Avila telling him to get on the first plane, smoking, and go to Detroit as soon as possible. Shortstop Jose Iglesias was injured and the club needed an infielder quickly. Castro played 3-10 in six games.
Over the next two years, he hit .298 and established himself as a reliable multi-position player. Because of this, maybe this spring felt like another ambush. With the new coaching staff and the advent of Rule 5 outfielder Akil Baddoo, whose strong play forced the club to keep five outfielder, Castro was suddenly fighting for a place in the squad.
“Every year you have to be there and compete,” said Castro, who may still be vulnerable after the return of pitcher Spencer Turnbull. “I was a little nervous and maybe there was pressure on it. But I’m just trying to do my job.
“I know it would be difficult for me to form the team, but just keep doing what I have to do and play where the manager needs me. I was just trying to give 100% to make the team and I did. “
The fact that Castro hits left-handed people is a plus. The fact that he has constant contact on the plate is rather rare in this team and a plus. The fact that he can play all four infield positions as well as the outfield if necessary – well, it’s the kind of player that a matchup savvy manager like Hinch can use well.
“He’s easy to like and easy to appreciate when it comes to being an answer to a lot of different things,” Hinch said last month when he announced that Castro has teamed up that roster is really, really, really Well.
“People like Harold and Niko, you can attack these guys as managers with anything the game has to offer. Harold’s attitude and approach to the job has been very positive and very honest, which is why managers fall in love with him. “
Would it be nice if this love were translated into safety? Sure. But Castro understands how business works.
“Every player wants to be safe with a team,” he said. “But even if you are safe and a solid man for a team, you have to come here and do your job every year with the same hunger. … As long as I’m in the line-up, I know I’ll feel good wherever I play. “