Castro an 'anchor' for Angels pitchers

February 15th, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After missing the first day of camp because of an illness, Angels catcher has been busy this week learning as much as he can about the club’s pitchers.

Castro, who signed a one-year deal worth $6.85 million to join the Angels this offseason, spent time in the winter looking at video of Angels pitchers but now he’s been catching bullpens and meeting individually with pitchers to find out more about their repertoire, how they like him to set up behind the plate and then eventually go over signs. He’s also been able to lean on fellow catcher Max Stassi for information, as the two played together in Houston from 2013-16.

“It's a good mix of guys who got some really good experience last year and some guys that have been around for a long time with good track records,” Castro said. “That's what I use Spring Training for is to get to understand those guys as pitchers as best I can before the season starts so we can kind of just hit the ground running and not really have any missteps or anything along the way.”

Angels manager Joe Maddon has been impressed with Castro and met with him earlier this week to get a better feel for the nine-year veteran, who played six seasons with the Astros and three years with the Twins.

“He’s a very bright young man who feels very comfortable in his own skin, I can tell that quickly,” Maddon said. “So that's the kind of guy I want to get out there often as a guy that the pitchers really trust. He’s kind of an anchor for the staff. Whenever you have a catcher that's able to catch that often, it can be a big difference-maker and it’s important in Spring Training for catchers to specifically get to know these pitchers.”

Castro, 32, has long been known as a solid defensive catcher with plus-pitch framing skills and an ability to work well with pitchers. He's also coming off a season that saw him hit .232/.332/.435 with 13 homers and 30 RBIs in 79 games with the Twins. He improved his average exit velocity to 91.5 mph -- up 3 mph from his career average of 88.5 mph -- while also seeing his hard-hit percentage jump from 32 percent in '17 and 31.3 percent in '18 to 46.4 percent last year, per

It was his first season back after undergoing right knee surgery in 2018 that limited him to just 19 games. But Castro had no issues with his knee last season and believes he’s on the right track offensively. Castro will also be reunited with new assistant hitting coach John Mallee, who was the Astros' hitting coach from 2013-14, which included Castro’s lone All-Star appearance in ‘13. Maddon said he expects Castro to catch more than 100 games, which is something he did each season from 2013-17.

"I've been happy," Castro said of his production. "I made a few postural changes [at the plate] last year that I thought helped me out quite a bit. I just continued to kind of work on some of those things and gotten a lot more comfortable with those. And obviously, the knee held up just fine.”

Castro was also a part of two postseason teams in Minnesota, losing the Wild Card game to the Yankees in '17 before being swept by New York in last year's AL Division Series. He believes this team is also capable of making the playoffs, which is a major reason why the northern California native signed with the Angels.

"You look at the team and at this lineup and it's a pretty formidable group of guys," Castro said. "So I'm excited and I think we really have a chance to do some special things."