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Prospect Castillo shows stuff in MLB debut

Right-hander allows 2 ER on 5 hits, with 5 walks, 5 strikeouts during 5-IP no-decision
MLB.com @m_sheldon

Luis Castillo was the 11th different starter this season for a Reds rotation that has the highest ERA in the Majors with the least amount of innings pitched. But with his skipping a level for his callup from Double-A Pensacola on Friday, Castillo wasn't expected to be a savior in his big league debut against the Nationals.

All Castillo had to do was show the stuff that made the Reds want to trade for the prospect over the winter. In that regard, the right-hander delivered. On the other hand, it was an uneven first outing.

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Luis Castillo was the 11th different starter this season for a Reds rotation that has the highest ERA in the Majors with the least amount of innings pitched. But with his skipping a level for his callup from Double-A Pensacola on Friday, Castillo wasn't expected to be a savior in his big league debut against the Nationals.

All Castillo had to do was show the stuff that made the Reds want to trade for the prospect over the winter. In that regard, the right-hander delivered. On the other hand, it was an uneven first outing.

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In a no-decision during a 6-5 Reds loss in 10 innings to Washington, he threw 93 pitches over five innings with two earned runs, five hits and five walks allowed and five strikeouts. Both runs came via home runs. He also notched three double plays.

Video: CIN@WSH: Castillo escapes bases-loaded jam in the 3rd

"I don't think that was his best there," Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco told reporters. "I've seen him whenever I was down in Pensacola there for a couple of weeks [on a rehab assignment], he was just firing strikes in there.

"Everybody can see the stuff that he has and kind of dream on that. I've definitely seen him with better command. I would say that's kind of uncharacteristic."

Castillo, 24, actually took his first big league at-bat before he threw his first pitch. Nine men batted in the top of the first inning and he was staked to a 4-0 lead. Once he took the mound, Castillo's fastball was as advertised. His four-seamer averaged 98 mph according to Statcast™, with a top speed of 100 mph.

The Nationals' powerful lineup also showed Castillo that his fastball was hittable. After striking out his first batter, Trea Turner, Brian Goodwin jumped on a 99-mph, 1-0 pitch for a homer to right-center field. In the fourth inning on a 97-mph, 3-1 fastball, Anthony Rendon clubbed a homer to center field.

"I'm happy with the way he threw the ball," Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters. "As he gets settled in here, I think we'll see something that resembles more of what we saw in Double-A as far as pitch efficiency. That will go a long way. That will allow him to stay in the game longer."

Castillo, who walked only 13 batters at Pensacola while posting a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts and 80 1/3 innings, struggled at times to throw strikes Friday. In the third inning, he walked three consecutive batters with one out to load the bases.

"I think the zone in the Minor Leagues is a little wider. Here in the big leagues, you've got to be fine with your pitches," Castillo told reporters via translator Julio Morillo.

That's when Castillo also showed some mettle in the tough moment. The Majors' leading hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, got a low 99-mph fastball and bounced into an inning-ending double play. Zimmerman also grounded into a double play to end another threat in the fifth as Castillo's final batter.

Video: CIN@WSH: Castillo induces double play to end the 5th

"Obviously the numbers that Ryan has put up this year are just crazy," Mesoraco told reporters. "For him to bear down in that situation and make some pitches, that was definitely good to see."

Castillo was one of three young players acquired from the Marlins for starting pitcher Dan Straily in January, and is the organization's No. 5 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.

"This was a dream come true tonight," Castillo told reporters. "I was waiting for that moment ever since the first time I pitched in professional baseball."

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