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Relaxed Castellanos embracing leadership role

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Four years have passed since Nicholas Castellanos broke into the big leagues with the Tigers, as a highly-touted prospect with Detroit roots. As he talked with reporters at TigerFest on Saturday at Comerica Park, it might be the most comfortable the 25-year-old has seemed in his role here.

At a time when Castellanos' future in Detroit isn't entirely clear, two years away from free agency on a team in the early stages of a rebuilding project, the Tigers' starting right fielder sounds not only relaxed and comfortable, but prepared to take on a role as part of the core of the franchise.

DETROIT -- Four years have passed since Nicholas Castellanos broke into the big leagues with the Tigers, as a highly-touted prospect with Detroit roots. As he talked with reporters at TigerFest on Saturday at Comerica Park, it might be the most comfortable the 25-year-old has seemed in his role here.

At a time when Castellanos' future in Detroit isn't entirely clear, two years away from free agency on a team in the early stages of a rebuilding project, the Tigers' starting right fielder sounds not only relaxed and comfortable, but prepared to take on a role as part of the core of the franchise.

Video: Castrovince, Justice on Tigers, Castellanos' options

"I would love to," he said. "When I sit in my backyard and I'm looking up and just daydreaming about my dream career, it's [a vision of me being] the kid that helped bring the World Series back to Detroit. My mom was born here. My grandparents are from here. I have cousins that all go to school here. …

"So if I'm able to come over that hump, and it's myself and [Michael] Fulmer and [Shane Greene] and whoever, when we're not supposed to [win], that's Plan A. ... And I never leave, and I play 23 years in the big leagues here, and I'm an unbelievable right fielder and I'm in conversations with Al Kaline. That's the dream. That's the goal. That's what I love. But we all know in life, we don't always get Plan A. And you just have to make the best of whatever plan you get dealt."

On Saturday, Castellanos was clearly one of the faces of the franchise at TigerFest and on the Winter Caravan, not only interacting with fans but showing personality. That extended to his talk with reporters, where he expressed his happiness to be a right fielder after years of scrutiny as a third baseman. Castellanos talked extensively about taking that happy feeling to the plate down the stretch.

Video: Castellanos on moving to right, Candelario's impact

"To be honest, I love it out there," Castellanos said. "I'm excited to get really good. I want to be called a very good outfielder. I think my arm is going to play better than it did at third base. I think my speed is going to be able to come into play a lot more than it did at third. I think that being able to be out there and be in a relaxed state of mind and not so tense at third base is going to also help me offensively. And I think that you saw that when I got put out there.

"The whole month of September, it was literally like playing backyard baseball, just joking around with the center fielder, having fun, hitting, doing whatever I could to try to win."

To that end, Castellanos said he switched up his offseason workouts to improve his chances of sticking in right field, focusing on athleticism, agility and quickness.

"Basically I shifted my entire workout program as if I was going to be a corner in the NFL," he said. "I'd run routes and do whatever. The really good outfielders are just really good athletes. And that is all I tried to be. 

"Athletes as adults are just kids that just never stop doing athletic stuff. And that's all I tried to focus on this offseason, was kind of breaking down those walls and being a little kid again."

Video: Nicholas Castellanos' 2017 Highlights

That childlike enthusiasm, Castellanos said, carries over into his approach to leadership.

"I think I'm going to be a playful leader," he said. "I think that it's not going to be work. My goal is that, win, lose or draw, we're kids playing baseball. And the rebuild is going to be as fun or as miserable as we make it."

Castellanos did cite lessons he learned from Tigers veterans of years past, learning competitiveness from Ian Kinsler, how to treat people from Torii Hunter, and camaraderie from David Price. Still, Castellanos made it clear he wants to put his own stamp on helping his team. And as rough as September was for the Tigers last year, it's clear the relaxed pressure of that stretch run had an impact on him.

Video: Castellanos on learning from his teammates

"I felt like for the first time that I was playing high school baseball again," he said. "I didn't have anybody breathing down my neck. I didn't feel I had to do this, or I had to try to do this. I knew that I could just go about my day and have the best time, joke around, lighten the mood.

"I'm a competitor, but I'm not a very serious competitor. And I think that when you start putting handcuffs mentally on yourself when you try so hard, you get frustrated really easily, and then that's going to hinder your performance." 

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Nicholas Castellanos