Castillo an All-Star for 3rd time as Mariners' lone rep

July 3rd, 2023

SEATTLE -- When embarked on the 2023 season, he had three very deliberate goals. Having made the Mariners’ Opening Day start, he already had one under his belt. And on Sunday, he checked off the second.

“La Piedra” was named to the American League All-Star team, marking the third selection of his career.

He’s the Mariners’ lone representative, at least for now, as it’s possible more are added in the coming days if other players drop out for injuries or personal reasons.

“The big difference, obviously, for the All-Star Game this year is that it's here at home,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “And hopefully the fans can enjoy it, and hopefully we can enjoy it and I'm able to go out there and put up a good performance.”

Castillo, who allowed six runs (five earned) over six innings in Sunday’s 7-6 series finale win over Tampa Bay, entered play with a 2.86 ERA and a 140 ERA+ and was worth 1.7 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. He’d racked up 108 strikeouts with 28 walks over 94 1/3 innings while holding hitters to a slash line of .207/.271/.379 (.650 OPS).

His 28.3% strikeout rate was the AL’s fourth-best, and he also ranked sixth in the AL in ERA, third in opponent batting average (.206), tied for eighth in strikeouts (108), eighth in WHIP (1.060) and sixth in strikeouts-per-9 innings (10.30).

“He has been literally 'The Rock,' and I said it to our team today,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

It’s a deserving honor for the Mariners’ workhorse, who’s blossomed into their ace in less than 12 months after a blockbuster transaction ahead of last year’s Trade Deadline, when Seattle acquired the high-powered righty from Cincinnati in exchange for three of its top five prospects. It was a bold move that signaled the Mariners’ intention of climbing the competitive ladder, which culminated in their first postseason appearance in 21 years -- in large part on the shoulders of Castillo, who started their first playoff game.

Of course, that’s last year and his selection is based on 2023 performance. To that end, the Mariners’ one-man presence in this year’s Midsummer Classic is a disappointing development for the franchise given that the game will be held in Seattle and serve as a showcase for baseball in the Pacific Northwest.

When the event was awarded to T-Mobile Park in September 2021, the Mariners were on the cusp of a new era headlined by young talent that led to last season’s playoff berth. But their inconsistencies one year later were reflected in the All-Star selections.

Those that were left off the AL roster but represent perhaps the club’s best chances to be late additions are starting pitcher George Kirby and reliever Paul Sewald, who recorded his 16th save on Sunday. Kirby entered Sunday ranked fifth in the AL in WAR (2.3), and he leads MLB by a mile in strikeout-to-walk ratio, at 9.56.

“I do think we've had a couple of pitchers that are very worthy of it,” Servais said. “I think George has had an outstanding first half. I think Paul Sewald has a great first half. And again, I said to the team, there are things that happened here over the last week, some guys will pull out. Hopefully, we'll get a couple more players in there because those two guys in my mind are very deserving.”

As for Castillo, now that he’s crossed off two goals, he’ll go for the third, final and loftiest of them all: win the AL Cy Young Award. He’ll need a monster second half to thrust himself back into the conversation, but if he’s shown anything in his seven seasons, he typically gets better as each season goes on. 

“That is kind of a testament of the work we've been putting in,” Castillo said. “And like I said, every year, I like to put up goals -- and luckily for us we're able to complete the second goal.”

Castillo is the 49th player and 20th pitcher to represent the Mariners at the Midsummer Classic, and he’s the 13th starting pitcher to make an All-Star Game with the Mariners.