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Castillo's struggles continue in Reds' loss

Righty believes he's 'going to pick it up' after enduring another rough outing
MLB.com @m_sheldon

PITTSBURGH -- Of all the young pitchers whom the Reds had going into Spring Training, Luis Castillo was the only one who was locked into a rotation spot. That was based on both his stuff and his 2017 results.

Through a pair of 2018 starts, neither Castillo's stuff nor his results have been very impressive, and that could be worrisome for a Reds club trying to make progress. Castillo labored through most of his five innings during Friday's 14-3 loss to the Pirates. He allowed four earned runs and six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

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PITTSBURGH -- Of all the young pitchers whom the Reds had going into Spring Training, Luis Castillo was the only one who was locked into a rotation spot. That was based on both his stuff and his 2017 results.

Through a pair of 2018 starts, neither Castillo's stuff nor his results have been very impressive, and that could be worrisome for a Reds club trying to make progress. Castillo labored through most of his five innings during Friday's 14-3 loss to the Pirates. He allowed four earned runs and six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

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In two starts, which each lasted five innings, Castillo has a 9.00 ERA. He gave up a career-high six earned runs -- with a pair of home runs surrendered -- vs. the Nationals last Saturday.

"I feel the same. I know these last two starts were not great," Castillo said. "I know I'm going to pick it up, I'm going to pick my pace up, and everything's going to be fine after that."

Castillo threw 78 pitches over his first three innings -- 107 overall -- and Pirates hitters also did a nice job connecting. There were three doubles hit in the second inning, including Colin Moran's two-run double to deep right-center field and Jordy Mercer hitting a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line.

Video: CIN@PIT: Price talks Castillo's rough day on the hill

"He hasn't had the real good fastball command," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's a lot of balls getting pulled across the plate either off the plate to right-handers or when he's trying to go away to lefties, bringing it back close to him and down and into a typical left-handed sweet spot. It's where the lefties have gotten him, really."

Lefty hitters are batting .400 vs. Castillo so far, compared to .200 for right-handers. Two Pirates lefty hitters who caused trouble were Corey Dickerson and Moran, who combined for seven hits. Moran's two-out, bases-loaded single to center field in the third inning made it a 4-2 game.

Castillo was able to recover in the fourth with a brisk six-pitch inning that enabled him to get through a scoreless fifth inning before exiting with the two-run deficit.

"After the first three innings, I didn't know if we'd be able to get him through four," Price said. "He ended up having a real quick fourth inning and worked his way through the fifth. And we needed it."

Cincinnati is off to a 1-5 start and is keenly aware that young starting pitchers would be leaned on to carry a big load. Castillo appeared ready for the responsibility after skipping Triple-A last season and posting a 3.12 ERA in 15 big league starts while showing ace-like stuff. When the right-hander is sharp, he can command four pitches -- including a four-seam fastball that sits between 97-100 mph.

"I think I made my pitches, but they put good swings on those pitches," Castillo said.

It was a poor night for the Reds' bullpen, which turned that two-run game into a blowout on the watch of Yovani Gallardo and Austin Brice. Gallardo faced seven batters in the sixth inning, retired one, and allowed six earned runs with four hits and two walks. Brice gave up four runs (three earned) over 1 2/3 innings. Through two relief appearances since he was signed last Saturday, Gallardo has a 54.00 ERA.

Video: CIN@PIT: Votto knocks RBI single to center field

"He had a gap of time off after he was let go by the Brewers [in Spring Training] and just finding his way again," Price said. "It wasn't an ideal situation to come into today, but I think he has better stuff and the ability to get guys out. Certainly, haven't seen him at his best at this point."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Winker, Votto even the game: Jesse Winker had hits in his first three at-bats, with the first two not leaving the infield. With the Reds down, 2-0 in the third inning, it was his RBI single off of first baseman Josh Bell's glove that scored Castillo. Two batters later with one out, Joey Votto's second hit -- a line-drive single to center field -- plated Billy Hamilton and tied the game.

Video: CIN@PIT: Winker plates Castillo on an RBI single

Bases left loaded: Despite Pirates starter Trevor Williams giving up 10 hits, the two runs in the third inning were all he allowed. The Reds had a chance to pounce in the third when three consecutive two-out singles loaded the bases for Eugenio Suarez. After getting a 2-0 count, Suarez flied out to the right-field warning track to end the inning with Votto on deck.

QUOTABLE
"I knew it was going to be cold, so I just went out there to compete. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for me today." -- Castillo, on the chilly and wet conditions at PNC Park Friday

WHAT'S NEXT
When the series continues at 7:05 p.m. ET Saturday, Sal Romano will take the ball for his second start of 2018 against Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl. Votto, who was off to a slow start before getting two hits on Friday, has had success in his limited time facing Kuhl -- going 3-for-4 with a homer in six plate appearances.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05.

Cincinnati Reds, Luis Castillo