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Castillo pleased with progress in 2nd spring start

Right-hander works 2 2/3 innings vs. Cubs; Stephenson shaky
MLB.com @m_sheldon

MESA, Ariz. -- Had Cubs lefty-hitting star Anthony Rizzo not foiled Luis Castillo with an against-the-shift squib roller past an open third base, the Reds' starting pitcher could have completed his scheduled three innings on Saturday.

"I made my pitch and when he hit the ground ball, in my mind I said, 'Oh my gosh, really?'" Castillo said via interpreter Julio Morillo.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Had Cubs lefty-hitting star Anthony Rizzo not foiled Luis Castillo with an against-the-shift squib roller past an open third base, the Reds' starting pitcher could have completed his scheduled three innings on Saturday.

"I made my pitch and when he hit the ground ball, in my mind I said, 'Oh my gosh, really?'" Castillo said via interpreter Julio Morillo.

View Full Game Coverage

Alas, Kyle Schwarber followed Rizzo with a single up the middle, and Castillo was pulled at his pitch limit following 2 2/3 innings with one run, five hits, no walks and four strikeouts. The extra-base hits were a Kris Bryant double in the first inning and Tommy La Stella leadoff double in the second inning. La Stella scored on a RBI single to center field by Mike Freeman as Chicago claimed a 7-4 win.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"The second inning was kind of tough, but I made the adjustment," Castillo said. "I came out for the third inning and after that, I was starting to make my pitches. I went out there and competed, and everything was good."

Castillo, who is already locked into a rotation spot, felt right where he should be after two spring starts as he prepares for his first full season in the big leagues.

"I feel amazing," he said. "I feel healthy, which is the most important thing right now. I'm getting ready, and it's going to be a good season for me."

Reds Spring Training info

Camp battle: Stephenson struggles
Competing for a rotation spot, Robert Stephenson did not fare well when he entered from the bullpen. Stephenson pitched 1 1/3 innings with two earned runs, four hits, three walks and one strikeout. In his previous outing on Monday vs. Arizona, he gave up three earned runs over 1 2/3 innings.

"He just had a lot of misses and elevated fastballs," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He just really hasn't gotten into his groove yet. He'll bounce back, I'm sure. He's got good stuff, and he's a better pitch now than he was at this point last year."

Mesoraco looks good
Catcher Devin Mesoraco is off to a good start in camp. Through six games, including four starts, he is 4-for-11 (.364) with two doubles. More importantly, Mesoraco has been off the injury report.

That is no minor thing, after Mesoraco missed most of the past three seasons with injuries that required surgeries to both hips and his left shoulder. He also had a fractured left foot in August that ended his 2017 season prematurely.

"He looks as healthy as I can remember, going back to 2014," Price said. "He just looks normal. There's no concern about his hip labrum or the shoulder issue that he had. I think more than anything, I feel good about where he is physically because I think he can be very productive if he can stay on the field and remain healthy."

Mesoraco, an All-Star in 2014 when hit 25 home runs, is slated to back up Tucker Barnhart behind the plate.

Weiss regaining his place
Two springs ago, right-handed relief prospect Zack Weiss was moving up quickly and was invited to his first big league camp. Then he developed elbow problems and needed surgery that wiped out his entire 2016 season, when he would have been with Double-A Pensacola.

Weiss, 25, bounced back last season and had a 2.63 ERA, 10 saves and a 1.05 WHIP in 34 games combined with Class A Advanced Daytona and Pensacola. He was added to the 40-man roster after the season and is back in Spring Training.

"Now we're seeing him, he's recovered, he was able to get back on the mound in competition last year and really performed well," Price said. "He's a guy that looks as good now as we had heard about back before he was having the arm problems. He's just a really polished guy. I like the way he throws the ball, competes well and he commands his stuff and has two really good breaking balls. He looks like a guy who can help us this year."

Through three games, Weiss has three scoreless innings. He earned the save after pitching the ninth inning Friday in a 3-2 win over the Giants. Odds are that he begins the season at Triple-A Louisville, but making the team out of camp hasn't been ruled out.

What's next
Jesse Winker will be leading off the lineup and Anthony DeSclafani is scheduled to make his second start on Sunday, when the Reds host the Royals at 3:05 p.m. ET in Goodyear. Listen live on Gameday Audio.

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