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Castillo fearless on mound against Rockies

Reds rookie works around trouble to avoid big inning at Coors Field
MLB.com @m_sheldon

DENVER -- The Reds have used 13 different starting pitchers this season, including seven rookies. Very quickly, Luis Castillo has become one of the rookies that has stood out for how he has handled himself on the mound, especially in moments of adversity.

Castillo, who was summoned from Double-A Pensacola June 23 and is the organization's No. 5 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, is winless in his three starts. The 24-year-old took his first big league loss Monday in the Reds' 5-3 defeat to the Rockies.

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DENVER -- The Reds have used 13 different starting pitchers this season, including seven rookies. Very quickly, Luis Castillo has become one of the rookies that has stood out for how he has handled himself on the mound, especially in moments of adversity.

Castillo, who was summoned from Double-A Pensacola June 23 and is the organization's No. 5 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, is winless in his three starts. The 24-year-old took his first big league loss Monday in the Reds' 5-3 defeat to the Rockies.

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"You have to handle yourself with maturity sometimes beyond their experience or their years," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "So far, he has done that, and I anticipate that will continue to improve as his command improves, and with his willingness to really work the ball on the plate early in the count, his success will improve, as well."

Castillo gave up four runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. His four-seam fastball averaged 98.4 mph and often hit 100 mph, according to Statcast™. But he was also in trouble quite a bit and enjoyed only one 1-2-3 inning.

That meant there were jams to work out of. In the first inning, he had runners on first and second with one out and escaped. The leadoff batter reached over four of the next five innings. Colorado never scored more than one run in an inning against the right-hander.

"His ability to kind of limit damage is impressive," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "His demeanor on the mound, he acts a lot older than he is and like he's got more experience than he does. When you can limit damage like that, you can keep your team in the game."

Had the Reds' offense been more supportive on Monday, Castillo might have been celebrating a first big league win. The Rockies are second-best in the National League in team batting average.

"I feel really good," Castillo said via translator Julio Morillo. "They made really good contact on good pitches that I made, and there's nothing I can do about it."

Price felt Castillo could improve his outcomes by pitching ahead in the count more. Known for throwing strikes in the Minors, he often pitched from behind against Colorado. The two home runs he allowed -- to Charlie Blackmon in the fourth inning and Raimel Tapia in the sixth -- came in hitters' counts. Tapia started out in a 1-2 count, but couldn't be finished off, running the count full before homering.

"This kid is jumping up from Double-A. I think he has a little bit of trepidation on pounding the strike zone right now, which isn't unusual for young pitchers," Price said. "When he gets on the plate and turns those counts around from 1-0 to 0-1, I think he has a chance to be absolutely sensational and dominate the game more than he has to this point."

Even when pitching behind, Castillo has shown no fear on the mound.

"There are times when you've got guys that are out there, and you can tell. They get behind in the count and they kind of pitch a little scared," Barnhart said. "It starts to kind of snowball on them, and giving up one run turns into giving up four runs, and you're not really in the game anymore at that point. But Luis, with the ability to slow it down and go right after guys when you need strikes, it's really impressive."

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