Teammates, coaches happy to see Castellanos back in All-Star form

July 11th, 2023

It’s comfort. It’s control.

Nick Castellanos mentions these things when he is asked how he followed a disappointing 2022 Phillies debut with a historic bounce back that made him their only player on the 2023 NL All-Star team. Castellanos needs to be comfortable in his life to produce on the field, he said. His “control-freak” personality keeps him on the perpetual hunt for solutions to problems.

“I analyze a lot of things,” Castellanos said recently. “It’s kind of hard for me to turn my mind off, and just ‘Why, why, why, why, why?’ Sometimes I feel like I can come up with the right answer if I have enough time.”

Castellanos is a deep thinker who often provides eloquent answers to questions. He can be surprisingly candid at times.

He also is perfectly fine dropping a one-word answer to a question.

You never really know with Castellanos.

Besides his family, nobody knows Castellanos better than his manager, coaches and teammates. They recently offered their thoughts on how he has made such a dramatic turnaround. He is batting .301 with 13 home runs, 55 RBIs and an .840 OPS. He batted just .263 with 13 homers, 62 RBIs and a career-low .694 OPS last season.

Castellanos’ OPS has jumped 146 points from 2022. If he maintains that pace, it would be the fifth-largest jump in OPS in consecutive seasons (minimum 500 plate appearances in each season) in Phillies history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. It would be the largest jump since Don Money (+202) in 1970 and the second-largest jump since Dolph Camilli (+242) in 1936.

“He talks about being relaxed and comfortable in his environment, and I believe that’s a lot of it,” Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long said. “Even our relationship has been much easier this year. I know his swing.

"Like today, we were in the cages, and a couple little key terms -- he’s able to right away pick up on those, and it seems like he gets on track really quick. It doesn’t take him a long time to get right back to where he needs to be.

“He’s a type of guy who wants to know everything. He wants to know the whys to everything. Why is this happening? Why are we doing this? Is there a reason why we’re doing this? And when he can kind of connect the dots, it helps him ease his mind and it helps his performance.

"I think the simplest things -- just the reasons why -- he would like to know the answers. But don't give him too much information. He does not want that. I’ve learned that the hard way. ... He really wants to simplify it as much as he can. But the things that he wants to know, he wants you to be very direct with him on those.”

Castellanos signed a five-year, $100 million contract in March 2022. The contract came with enormous expectations. He said he got rattled early last season when his new home’s address in South Jersey got revealed on the radio.

Then he and his wife Jess had their son, Otto.

It was a lot.

“I think things have definitely kind of slimmed down for him,” Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm said. “Nick is -- I don’t know if I have a really good way to describe it. It’s more just when Nick is comfortable, Nick’s doing what Nick wants to do. Not in like a bad way, but you can just kind of tell that he’s in his own little world and he’s comfortable.”

Castellanos said if he is not comfortable in his everyday life, he is not going to be comfortable in the batter’s box.

Everything is connected.

“It’s just good to see him where he’s doing his thing, he’s coming into the clubhouse and he’s got his routine,” Kyle Schwarber said. “And he’s Nick, right? I don't think anyone was really worried, last year or even coming into this year about performance or anything like that.

"The game is hard. People are going to have good years. People are going to have bad years. It is what it is, but you know that whenever he does step up to the plate, you know it’s a threat.

"I think that’s still what pitchers thought last year and that’s what pitchers think this year -- he's a threat. It’s who he’s been his whole career.”

Said Long: “I’m proud of him. It’s a very satisfying feeling, knowing Nick and knowing where he’s been and the feeling he’s got to have by being selected to the All-Star team.” reporter Brian Murphy contributed to this story.