O's Castro focused after scary offseason incident

February 11th, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- When it happened, the first thing thought about was his family. Then his livelihood, as both flashed before his eyes. Afterward, he considered himself lucky to be alive.

Now more than a month since being robbed at gunpoint in his Dominican Republic hometown, Castro is ready to move on from the incident. But doing so hasn’t been easy. Reflecting on it on the first day of Orioles camp on Tuesday, Castro summarized the ordeal as “a really bad situation, a bad moment, bad timing.”

“It took me two to three weeks to forget about the whole thing,” Castro said, through team interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “For a while, every time I went to bed, I kept reimagining everything that happened.”

For Castro, solace came in the outflow of support he received following the Jan. 8 robbery. The reliever said he heard from “current players, former players, past teammates” after he was held up by three men and robbed for jewelry outside the ballpark he trains at in La Romanca, D.R.

Afterward, Castro reported the incident with an Instagram post that read: “I almost lost my career because two illiterate people attacked me while I arrived at the ballpark where I am training,” Castro wrote in the post. “They took my chains when I got there and they almost shot me. Thank God that their gun got jammed. I’m alive thanks to the grace of God.”

“When I made the post, I never imagined it was going to reach so many people,” Castro said. “So many people reached out to me, wishing me well, supporting me, it was overwhelming. It is good to see there are people out there that care for you, that want the best for you. I am thankful for everybody.”

Two days later, Dominican police announced they’d arrested two suspects in connection to the robbery. Police also recovered and returned one of Castro’s gold chains, which he often wears while he pitches. Castro said he would continue to do so in time; first comes the business of repairing damages incurred during the robbery.

Castro reached into his locker on Tuesday to reveal a gold chain severed in two pieces.

“The chain is not in really good shape,” Castro said. “I need to take it to the jeweler, so they can brush it up, make it nice. Then, I will start wearing it again.”

Castro also said he’ll continue to return home during the offseason to the Dominican Republic, where professional ballplayers are sometimes targeted in cases like this. Castro was not injured, but Orioles manager Brandon Hyde called the incident “really scary” and added: "We feel real fortunate that things worked out well for him.”

“I never expected something like that to happen. I couldn’t imagine something like that,” Castro said. “I am going to continue to work hard, and I am not am going to move out of my home. I want to continue to work hard, continue to help the young kids and hopefully be a role model for them.”

Castro’s influence figures to grow if he can continue to progress on the mound, where he took tangible steps forward in 2019. He saw his velocity and strikeout rate soar during the summer months, which he largely spent as the Orioles' most reliable reliever. Before a late-season blowup outing swelled his final season ERA to 4.66, Castro posted a 2.58 mark over 40 prior appearances. He also rated above average among MLB relievers in Statcast metrics like hard hit percentage, opponent exit velocity, xBA, xSLG and xwOBA.

Now entering his age-25 season, Castro is seen as a breakout candidate in an O's bullpen ripe with opportunity, and a potential bridge to Mychal Givens and Hunter Harvey in the late innings. But after the events of the offseason, for Castro anyway, whatever happens on the field is gravy.

“Thankfully, with the support of my family and people close to me, I was able to move forward and leave that behind,” Castro said. “I am just thankful for God for an opportunity to be here. Whatever happened, it’s already in the past. I am not thinking about it anymore. I’m just focusing on the next season and trying to do the best job that I can."