With their season on the line, and their lineup in need of a boost, that's how much the Tigers could use him. The team activated the slugging third baseman from the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's 12-0 win against the Indians following a seven-week absence due to a fractured left hand.
"He played this morning in an intrasquad game, had a number of at-bats, got a couple of hits, and followed that up by flying up to Detroit and getting a double down the third-base line," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He looked good and I haven't done the lineup, but there's a good chance that he'll be in there [Wednesday]."
It would be a quick transition back after just two days of game action, but the Tigers aren't in a position for patience, one game behind the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Neither, for that matter, was Castellanos particularly patient. His flight landed at Detroit Metro Airport as the game was going on before he scrambled to get to Comerica Park. He was hoping the score would allow him to pinch-hit.
"I got to the ballpark in the sixth inning and I made it down right before [Justin] Upton hit his home run," Castellanos said. "I was getting undressed and dressed as fast as I could."
Upton's home run gave the Tigers a 9-0 lead, essentially sealing the win and allowing Ausmus to go to his bench. That didn't prevent Ausmus from messing with his young third baseman.
"When he got into the dugout and said hello," Ausmus said, "he came back over to me and said, 'Hey, can I get a pinch-hit today?' I said, 'I'm not sure, we're trying to win.' … That's sarcasm."
Castellanos pinch-hit for Ian Kinsler in the eighth and doubled down the left-field line, scoring on a Tyler Collins triple. Castellanos stayed in the game to play third base in the ninth. It was his first game action in the Majors since Aug. 6, when an inside pitch fractured his hand.
The 24-year-old was batting .286 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs at the time. Initial timetables projected Castellanos to miss four to six weeks, but those didn't account for the struggles Castellanos would encounter to regain strength in his hand once he was cleared to hit again.
"That was the first time that I ever felt I was unhealthy," he said, "so it's a huge knock to your confidence."
Castellanos lasted one at-bat in a simulated game a couple of weeks ago and had similar issues facing pitching early last week, but he felt much stronger in two days against pitching last weekend, even hitting some tape-measure drives.
"It was that Saturday, the second day in a row, where I think just my timing clicked, my hand felt a little bit better," he said. "I don't know if it was getting it going that second day in a row, but just Saturday was kind of the turning point where everything started to come together for me."
Castellanos wanted to join Detroit after that, but Ausmus preferred to give him some game action first. Castellanos went 1-for-3 in instructional play against Minor Leaguers on Monday and felt good.
While Castellanos doesn't expect to aggravate the injury by playing, as long as his hand isn't hit by another pitch, his timing against Major League pitching could require an adjustment. In an alternate situation, the Tigers might have waited until next season to test Castellanos in game action, but with Detroit struggling for production at third base since Castellanos left -- primary replacement Casey McGehee went 21-for-91 with a double and one RBI -- the club was willing to take a chance.