'Driven to win,' Castellanos a spark for Reds

Team won't travel by bus this season; Votto sports BLM shirt at workouts

July 7th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- For numerous reasons -- namely the 60-game schedule -- the designated hitter is coming to the National League for the first time in 2020. Reds right fielder would seem to fit the profile of a DH since he has above-average power and below-average fielding skills.

But Castellanos doesn’t like the DH role.

“I don’t want to DH. I chose to come to the Reds -- first and foremost, I believe they can win,” Castellanos said on Tuesday. “But also, I like being in the National League where I get to play defense every day. A goal of mine is to become a better and better defender every year that I play -- every game that I play is probably a more appropriate answer.”

A free agent in the offseason, Castellanos signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds in January that came with opt-out clauses after the 2020 and ’21 seasons. He was expected to be an offensive boost for a team that struggled to score runs the previous season.

Over 151 games in 2019, Castellanos batted .289/.337/.525 with 27 home runs while leading the Major Leagues with 58 doubles. Following his July 31 trade to the Cubs, he hit 16 of his homers with a 1.002 OPS in 51 games.

“[He is] extremely motivated to really take his game to another level, both personally and he’s really driven to win,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I think somewhere along the line, maybe he’s always been like this, I think he’s experienced it enough to where it’s like you can’t get enough of it. He wants to have that experience every year, and it’s rubbing off on our team already. He’s really coming into his own, into the prime of his career.”

Castellanos enjoyed taking live batting practice Monday against Trevor Bauer. After Bauer had thrown his last pitch, he told Castellanos he had one more for him. Castellanos crushed it for a homer and flipped his bat.

“It starts with circumstances like yesterday, where me and Trevor are kind of chirping friendly back and forth -- obviously wanting to bring the best out of each other, knowing Trevor being the best version of himself and me being the best version of myself, can hopefully rub off on other teammates and stuff,” Castellanos said.

Castellanos will get to see a lot of his two former clubs soon. Of the first 10 regular-season games, six are vs. the Tigers -- including the July 24 opener at Great American Ball Park. The other four are against the Cubs. There are also two exhibition games slated vs. Detroit on July 21-22 in Cincinnati.

Castellanos didn’t seem to care.

“I haven’t looked at the schedule,” Castellanos replied. “I’m focused on today and practice and continuing to elevate the competition in our daily workouts. You can ask me that question when the day arrives. I’ll have a better answer.”

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is already taking that look ahead, however.

“Oh, I'm sure Nicky's going to have fun trying to whack us,” Gardenhire said. “You know what? We miss him. He was really good around here. It'll be interesting to open it up.

“With Nicky there, guy's a good player and he's settled in, and you know what? We'll try to find ways to get him out. Hopefully we'll make him chase. I saw teams do that to us when he was with us, so maybe we can make him chase.”

No bus trips
Because of regional schedules in 2020 to limit travel, the Reds will have the fifth fewest total miles to cover on their road trips this season -- 4,626 -- while playing opponents in the NL Central and American League Central. By comparison, the AL West’s Rangers will cover 14,706 miles. Among the closer cities on the schedule are Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

To avoid overcrowding, there won’t be any trips via bus.

“There will be a lot of thought put into the actual flights, but there's no trips that we're going to take a bus or anything like that. We will fly,” Bell said. “You look at our schedule, it's pretty easy. We have night games on travel days and that actually works out better for us with the short flights and staying on the evening schedule. Typically, you're always hoping for day games on getaway days, but the way this turned out, we like it better this way.”

Worth noting
Reds first baseman Joey Votto wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on the field during Tuesday’s workout. Votto has previously spoken and written about his desire to be a better listener about issues involving people of color.