Castillo: 'I could go out and pitch 6-7 innings'

Senzel in 'outstanding shape'; Reds easing into 'controlled scrimmages'

July 4th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- Even as manager David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson are evaluating the fitness of their pitchers and contemplating shorter outings, starting pitcher feels no need to be held back. Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Major League Baseball in March, Castillo has been in Cincinnati staying with a throwing program.

“Right now, because I’ve been here such a long time and doing all of my bullpen sessions, I think I could go out and pitch 6-7 innings,” Castillo said Saturday via translator Jorge Merlos on a Zoom call. “That’s how good I feel right now. I’m perfectly OK to do so.”

Castillo, who was the club’s Opening Day starter in 2019 and made his first All-Star Game, worked off mounds at both Great American Ball Park and nearby Xavier University during the shutdown. Bullpen coach Lee Tunnell supervised his throwing sessions.

With workouts resuming on Friday, Castillo enjoyed being able to ramp up and prepare for a 60-game season in about three weeks.

“I feel really good,” Castillo said. “I’ve been coming out here and getting my work in. I’m happy we’re getting back to baseball and we’re getting to play.”

Over 32 starts in ’19, Castillo was 15-8 with a 3.40 ERA, 79 walks and 226 strikeouts. Among numerous career bests he achieved, he worked 190 2/3 innings.

Like many during the pandemic, Castillo had positive things happen to him, personally, that he couldn’t have enjoyed while away playing baseball. His family welcomed their second child.

“I had a new baby girl that came in. My family was here with me this whole time,” Castillo said. “I didn’t have any time that was boring.

“It was a good time. I feel good. My family feels healthy. We’re all very healthy. I hope you guys are healthy as well.”

Senzel stands out
When the team gathered together for the first time on Friday, Bell was impressed with the conditioning and shape of the players. One player stood out among the group in center fielder .

Senzel was behind during Spring Training because he was still rehabilitating from right shoulder surgery. Now, he’s 100 percent.

“Nick came into Spring Training, and he was strong, but any time you’re injured, it affects everything, and you can’t do what you’re normally used to doing to get yourself into shape, no matter how hard you try,” Bell said on Saturday. “But he really leaned out, and he’s even stronger than he was in Spring Training.

“He looks like he’s in outstanding shape. Strong with the bat, but even watching him a little bit in the outfield, he’s flying. He’s moving really well. I think being a little bit lighter and leaner, and stronger, we’re going to see Nick physically like we’re used to seeing him.”

Scrimmages, games, etc.
Bell had players taking part in only drills, batting practice and throwing sessions the first two days of workouts. On Sunday, Reds pitchers will throw to hitters for the first time -- otherwise known as live batting practice.

“They are going to just kind of morph into controlled scrimmages,” Bell said. “Definitely by Week 2, it’ll look more like a scrimmage. By next weekend, we’ll be playing innings -- some amount of innings -- that look like games."

Teams are allowed to play exhibition games vs. opposing clubs three times during the final week of Summer Camp, but it’s not been determined if the Reds will face a different team.

Same locker for Barnhart
Players spent the last couple of days adjusting to the pandemic protocol of baseball, including the wearing of masks in all indoor areas and eating in isolated areas of the Diamond Club section behind home plate. But one thing hasn’t changed for catcher . He was able to keep his normal locker position in the home clubhouse.

“I was curious to see how it looked when we got here -- whether it would be spread out more, less guys in one area,” Barnhart said. "[Clubhouse manager] Rick Stowe said there’s 25 guys in our normal clubhouse, and 10 in the visitors' clubhouse -- at least until we start playing other teams. My guess is there’ll be some temporary lockers. It’s normal, which is great, with so much being that isn’t. To have your normal locker and have the same conversations you’d normally have ... it’s been nice.”

Pitchers learn how to DIY
Early in the pandemic, Johnson was home in Tennessee monitoring his pitchers the best he could and staying in touch online or by phone. Besides watching video of their bullpens, he also provided solutions to problems created by the need to stay home and social distance.

“Yeah, we had a couple of guys build a mound, which I thought was cool. We had some guys making a couple of runs to Home Depot once in a while to find some PVC piping or whatever,” Johnson said. “We taught them how to make weighted balls with pennies and a tennis ball. If nothing else, it was fun. If those guys did have a challenge of not having the right kind of equipment, we felt like, if nothing else, we armed them with a way to be creative and maybe come up with something.”