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Castillo shows off potent changeup in win

Young righty strikes out eight Brewers, six with off-speed pitch
MLB.com @m_sheldon

MILWAUKEE -- Luis Castillo already had three starts this season, but Monday vs. the Brewers marked the true return of the electric pitcher the Reds valued so much as a rookie in 2017.

With a changeup that helped pile up swings and misses, Castillo struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings during a 10-4 victory over Milwaukee at Miller Park. Had it not been for a mistake pitch to relief pitcher Jorge Lopez in the seventh inning, the 25-year-old might have had a more stellar line.

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MILWAUKEE -- Luis Castillo already had three starts this season, but Monday vs. the Brewers marked the true return of the electric pitcher the Reds valued so much as a rookie in 2017.

With a changeup that helped pile up swings and misses, Castillo struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings during a 10-4 victory over Milwaukee at Miller Park. Had it not been for a mistake pitch to relief pitcher Jorge Lopez in the seventh inning, the 25-year-old might have had a more stellar line.

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"It was lights-out stuff. It was fun to play behind," Reds left fielder Adam Duvall said.

In a line that belies the actual pitching performance, Castillo was charged with four runs and five hits with three walks. Through the first six innings, Milwaukee had notched only two singles. Travis Shaw, who had one of those knocks, was erased in the second inning when Jesus Aguilar bounced into a double play.

Of the 107 pitches Castillo threw in the game, 22 were changeups according to Statcast™. It produced nine swinging strikes and one called strike. The off-speed pitch was also his go-to for six of his strikeouts.

"Today, it was really, really good. I trust that pitch a lot," Castillo said via translator Julio Morillo. "I can throw it in any count, but today it was excellent."

The fifth inning proved pivotal. Following a one-out walk to Hernan Perez, Phillip Ervin misplayed a line-drive single off the bat of Orlando Arcia, putting runners on second and third with one out. After getting Jett Bandy to swing and miss at an 84-mph changeup for strike three, Eric Sogard pinch-hit with a chance to tie the game.

Sogard almost did just that by tattooing a drive to right field that hooked foul by a few feet. On a 2-2 changeup, Sogard grounded out to first base to end the rally.

Video: CIN@MIL: Castillo induces groundout to end 5th inning

"The changeup is his best pitch," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's obviously paired with big velocity. He's got a good changeup, there's no question. When you're at 96 when you want it, it makes the hitters start. That's why velocity is so valuable.

"The difference is, he throws it to right-handed hitters, which you don't see a lot. That's what makes him a little bit unique, that he's throwing changeups to the same-sided hitters."

Milwaukee finally came alive with a big seventh inning that saw nine men bat. Unlike the fifth, Castillo could not escape danger. A two-out walk to Jacob Nottingham in his first big league plate appearance loaded the bases for Lopez.

After he got Lopez to whiff on a slider to make it an 0-2 count, Castillo grooved a fastball that was slugged to the gap for a two-run double. That ended Castillo's night.

Cody Reed took over and allowed two inherited runners to score on a wild pitch and Jonathan Villar's RBI single, making the Castillo line look less stellar. Still, the 3-13 Reds were able to snap an eight-game losing streak behind his effort.

"Certainly pitches he'd like to have back," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But we needed a win tonight, and he provided us the innings we had to have from a starter."

Castillo had a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts for the Reds last season following his promotion from Double-A Pensacola. In a rotation that features four young starters, he was the only one who came to Spring Training assured of a rotation spot. But he started out the regular season inconsistent and winless (0-2, 7.31 ERA). In his two losses, the Reds wound up giving up double-digit run totals.

"I went out there with a lot of confidence in myself, a lot of confidence in my pitches," Castillo said. "I made only one mistake in the seventh. But that happens. It's part of the game. Other than that, it was an excellent game for me."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Luis Castillo