Castillo wows with electric stuff over 123 pitches

June 29th, 2022

CHICAGO -- As the trade market percolates, arguably the best starting pitcher likely available put on a show Tuesday when Reds ace Luis Castillo took on the Cubs.

With his fastball crisp and missing bats, Castillo threw a career-high 123 pitches and struck out a season-high 11 batters over six scoreless innings during Cincinnati’s 5-3 victory at Wrigley Field.

“It was so much fun to watch him not only pitch like that but recognize too that he had a great fastball,” Reds manager David Bell said.

Castillo, who gave up five hits and three walks, is widely viewed as one of the biggest prizes of a market thin on pitching ahead of the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline. Through 10 starts this season, the right-hander is 3-4 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.16 WHIP while making $7.35 million. He can be a free agent after the 2023 season.

Other potential top trade chips in the league include Castillo’s Reds teammate, Tyler Mahle, and A’s starter Frankie Montas. As Castillo worked, Montas faced the Yankees on Tuesday and allowed two runs over six innings during an Oakland loss.

“I see the rumors every day, the teams that are interested in me. I put that out of my mind,” Castillo said via translator Jorge Merlos. “I’m still trying to go out there and give it my best. I have all of the confidence in God that he’s going to give me the opportunity to play wherever we need to be. If it’s here, it’s here. I know that I can contribute in any way I can on whatever team I’m on."

The four-seam fastball was Castillo’s most effective pitch. Of the 57 times it was used, according to Statcast, there were 34 swings and 19 misses. It averaged 97.3 mph and reached as fast as 98.8 mph. All 11 strikeouts were notched with the heater.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. In the third inning, Castillo’s first two batters reached on singles. But he shut down the rally by striking out the rest of the side in order -- the first three of six consecutive strikeouts.

“He’s always been like that,” Bell said. “Even if a couple of guys get on or a couple of guys score, he is still Luis Castillo. He still has the ability to get big outs.”

Castillo and Cubs starter Keegan Thompson exchanged zeros over the first five innings. The Reds broke through in the top of the sixth when Brandon Drury hit an RBI double to right-center field that scored Jonathan India and Donovan Solano followed with an RBI ground-rule double to center field for a 2-0 lead. India added a three-run homer in the seventh to make it 5-0.

The toughest inning for Castillo was the bottom of the sixth when he walked the first two batters and gave up a two-out infield hit that loaded the bases. At one point as the 32,732 fans came to life cheering, he could not hear the pitches called by catcher Aramis Garcia on their Pitchcom device. The batterymates paused to chuckle at the situation and reset.

Down in a 3-1 count to Yan Gomes, Castillo got four-straight foul balls before getting a broken-bat fly out to left field with a 97 mph fastball. His 123 pitches were tied for the second-most thrown in Major League Baseball in 2022.

“I’ve had enough experience through my entire career that I was able to get through it. I controlled my emotions, controlled the inning and got out of it,” Castillo said.

Far from Wrigley Field, there are indications the Reds are preparing themselves for possible rotation departures.

  • Left-hander Nick Lodolo is making what is expected to be his fourth and final rehabilitation assignment start on Wednesday for Triple-A Louisville. Lodolo has been out since April 24 with a back injury.
  • Right-hander Justin Dunn made his first rehab assignment start on Sunday for High-A Dayton as he works his way back from 2021 shoulder injury. Dunn, who was acquired from the Mariners in the March trade for Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez, is being prepared as a starter and is expected to be ready around the All-Star break.
  • Lefty Brandon Williamson, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 4 prospect, was promoted from Double-A Chattanooga to Louisville on Tuesday. Williamson came to the Reds with Dunn from Seattle.

Meanwhile, Castillo keeps pitching for the Reds -- for now.

“This sport is a business, obviously,” Castillo said. “There’s only so much I can control. I’ve got to keep a clear mind and focus on the job at hand. It’s not going to stop me from doing my job out there. Whatever happens, happens. If something happens, OK. Just roll with it.”