Castro has come a long way with Astros

Catcher has improved defensively while providing steady presence in clubhouse

February 28th, 2016

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Crowds of reporters routinely gathered around Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel in the early days of Astros camp. Across the room, veteran catcher Jason Castro went about his business without much fanfare or attention.

Castro, a former first-round Draft pick and the longest-tenured Astros player on the 2016 roster, has come a long way since he was a quiet rookie in the corner of the clubhouse. He carries himself with a noticeable confidence and presence, and he has the reputation as one of the most professional and consistent players on the Astros.

Houston is built around stars such as Correa, Keuchel and Jose Altuve, but Castro remains an important steady influence on and off the field.

"I still remember my first Spring Training in here," said Castro, who made his debut in 2010 on a veteran club that included Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Geoff Blum. "I was stuck in the corner over there in the locker and just trying to keep my ears open and tried to almost take a fly-on-the-wall mentality and make sure I was getting my work in, but still trying to make sure I was learning as much as I could from all the veterans that were around at that time. It was a great experience."

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Castro, 29, has blossomed into one of the top defensive catchers in the game for the way he handles pitchers and his pitch framing, and he has improved his blocking and throwing. The strides he's made are partially the result of a different mindset about how he catches, and he credits a meeting with Astros baseball development analyst Mike Fast two years ago with helping him approach catching in different ways.

Castro admits he now realizes he had a long way to go defensively when he was drafted out of Stanford in 2008, and missing the 2011 season following knee surgery didn't help. Now, Castro would like to win a Gold Glove Award, the ultimate honor for the toughest defensive position on the field.

"It's not something you actively think about while you're out there, but I definitely am putting that on the radar as a goal in the future for me," he said. "It wasn't something that I ever thought about before this, but coming in last year and really improving in a lot of the aspects as far as receiving baseballs, and throwing and blocking and continuing to work with pitchers. That, at the end of the day, is one of my biggest responsibilities. Kind of selfishly from an individual standpoint, it's definitely a goal of mine moving forward."

At the plate, Castro struggled last year, hitting just .211 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs, but he navigated Keuchel through an American League Cy Young Award season, helped Collin McHugh get 19 wins, introduced Lance McCullers to the big leagues and immediately clicked with Mike Fiers, who threw a no-hitter in August with Castro behind the plate.

"All the pitchers trust him," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's very selfless on how he goes about his business. He's been around for a while. He's gone through some career years and a few struggling years, but he remains a constant presence on a pretty young position player group. I love his impact."