Castellani dissects rough spring debut

March 4th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After his first 10 Major League games last season, Rockies right-handed pitcher Ryan Castellani understood his assignment: Learn to make faster adjustments.

Castellani has more work to do after a difficult Cactus League debut -- two hit batters, two walks, and seven runs (four earned) in 44 pitches in the Rockies’ 10-7 victory over the Athletics at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

There were mishaps beyond Castellani’s control. In the second inning, which ended after two outs, Raimel Tapia dropped a sun-affected fly ball and committed a throwing error on the same play, and C.J. Cron also had a fielding error. But Castellani, admittedly “a little quick, a little jumpy,” could never correct his rushed mechanics.

“For me, it’s just making a little quicker adjustments, versus making the adjustment a batter later or an inning later,” Castellani said. “It’s just being a little quicker to attack the zone and just be more competitive to get through things a little bit quicker, get out [of innings] a little quicker.”

Rockies manager Bud Black said of Castellani: “On the surface, it looked like he was under control, but I guess it’s what he stated. He’s got the weapons. He’s just got to hone it in the strike zone.”

Castellani threw four scoreless innings against the Mariners in his Aug. 8 Major League debut, and through three appearances had a 3.77 ERA with 11 strikeouts to four walks. But in his final seven games, six of them starts, Castellani walked 22 against 14 strikeouts in 29 innings. He also yielded a .955 OPS.

Castellani, 24, is competing for the fifth rotation spot. However, the addition of left-hander Austin Gomber, from the Cardinals in the Nolan Arenado trade, gave the Rockies an additional experienced pitcher, which could give the Rockies more time to develop Castellani, a second-round pick in 2014.

Senzatela ailing

Right-hander Antonio Senzatela, a key rotation member after his solid 2020, will likely miss his first two turns in the Cactus League rotation because of a slight right hamstring strain that he sustained during conditioning on Monday, Black said.

Quick bat

Rookie catcher Dom Nuñez is always confident swinging at fastballs. He lashed a Domingo Acevedo 95.1 mph delivery for a fifth-inning leadoff triple to right-center on Wednesday. Buddy Reed, the Athletics’ No. 23 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had the ball in his glove before crashing hard into the wall.

Opposite-way power

Throughout the spring, Black has said Tapia, whose calling card is hitting for average, has natural power that can surface as long as he doesn’t force it. Tapia displayed what Black meant in the third inning, when he took Jordan Weems’ 96.3 mph fastball the opposite way to left field. The wind was blowing in from right field.

Local live arm

Lefty Lucas Gilbreath, who grew up in the Denver area and played at Legacy High in Broomfield, Colo., struck out three against a hit and a walk in his scoreless inning Wednesday. Gilbreath turned down the Rockies after being drafted in the 36th round in 2014, then went to the University of Minnesota. The Rockies drafted him again in the seventh round in 2017.

Without Minor League ball last year, Gilbreath, who turns 25 Friday, made dramatic progress while working out in the Denver area with Rockies Minor League instructor Frank Gonzales (whose son, Marco Gonzales, pitches for the Mariners). He was selected to the 40-man Major League roster this winter.

“Last year, you could have looked at it as a tough break or you could’ve looked at it as a blessing in disguise,” Gilbreath said. “For me, being able to work every day with Frank gave me an opportunity to really clean some stuff up and get some eyes on me. I was able to make some big adjustments that got me to the point of where I am.”

Black said Gilbreath, who pitched at Class A Advanced Lancaster in 2019, has “been on the radar the last 12 months -- our player development people like his arm and like what he’s about, and his velocity has picked up.”

Daza’s next step

Outfielder Yonathan Daza, a standout fielder at all three positions, helped himself by going 2-for-2 with an RBI off the bench Wednesday. Daza, 27, is out of Minor League options.

“In just his brief big league at-bats, he hasn’t shown that more-consistent approach, but we’re hoping that it’s in there,” Black said.

Love the glove

Last year, the Rockies discovered Josh Fuentes’ standout glove at first base. He made a couple of plays Wednesday -- a leap and tag after a high throw from shortstop Alan Trejo, who had to act quickly just to get to the ball, and a scoop on a play when the runner beat the throw. He is competing for regular starts and defensive duty.

Brotherly baseball

The Rockies are scheduled to start righty Chi Chi González on Thursday against the Mariners, who will start lefty Justus Sheffield, 24.

On the Rockies’ pitching schedule for the game is righty Jordan Sheffield, 25, a Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers -- and Justus’ older brother. The two live together during Spring Training.