Back home, 'loose' Castellanos feeling like himself again

Outfielder homers amidst hot streak to back up Suárez's pristine start

May 11th, 2024

MIAMI – is a feel guy, and Friday night just felt like a night he would hit the ball hard.

He grew up and lives in South Florida. He spent Thursday’s off-day with his family. He watched his son Liam play baseball on his 10-and-under travel team. He brought along his 13 1/2-year-old boxer Tiger, which he’s had since he was a 19-year-old Tigers prospect. It was fun. Then, Castellanos hit an opposite-field home run in the second inning to score the Phillies’ first run in Friday night’s 8-2 victory over the Marlins at loanDepot Park.

Castellanos is batting .314 (11-for-35) with three doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and a .923 OPS in his last nine games.

Something has been different lately.

“I just feel like my swings are more loose -- free,” he said. “I’m not worried so much about chasing or being so hard on myself with trying to have a plan and whatnot. Just go up there with no thoughts and just swing. See ball, hit ball.”

He said there wasn’t one moment or game when he decided to let go of those thoughts.

“It’s just kind of like ice, right?” Castellanos said. “It kind of just melts away.”

Castellanos has emerged from the ice feeling like himself.

“My whole career, I’ve never had a plan, I’ve never looked for a pitch,” he said. “Basically, the game is glorified batting practice. That’s when I’ve always been at my best. I think that I just really tried to be something that I wasn’t at the beginning of the season, and [hurt] myself a little bit. But I’m getting out of it.”

He said he was trying to be somebody who was “patient and selective. Somebody who was looking for this pitch in this count, and this pitcher does this and that. A lot of the freedom that I would have attacking the baseball went away because my mind was working way too fast.”

The Phillies never looked back after Castellanos’ home run. They scored five runs in 3 1/3 innings against Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers, while Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez continues to perform like one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Suárez allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings. He is 7-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He is the first Phillies starter to open a season with a 1.50 ERA or lower in eight starts since Hall of Fame right-hander Grover Cleveland Alexander opened the 1916 season with 1.30 ERA.

“This is the best run he’s been on,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.

The Phillies have had only three starters this century with a 1.99 ERA or lower after eight starts to begin a season: Zack Wheeler this year (1.64 ERA), Roy Halladay in 2010 (1.59 ERA) and Brett Myers in 2005 (1.63 ERA).

“His pitchability is as good as it gets,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “He had the sinker/four-seamer combination working all night tonight. Cutter, slider, curveball combination top of the zone, bottom of the zone. I thought J.T. [Realmuto] stole a lot of strikes, did a really good job. … That wasn't the reason why we didn't hit. It was Ranger.”

Suárez struck out Dane Myers and Josh Bell looking on inside sinkers in the first inning. Castellanos hit a leadoff homer to start the second a few minutes later.

Last July, Castellanos drove to his South Florida home following the team’s flight from Pittsburgh. He called his brother Ryan and his friend Rudy, who has been throwing batting practice to him for years.

Meet me at the house, he said.

Castellanos has a batting cage at home. He hit from about 11:45 p.m. to 1 a.m. Being home helped him clear his mind. It sparked a turnaround following a rough July. But this year was different. He came into Miami already with a clear mind.

He enjoyed watching his son play on Thursday. Tiger was in good spirits, too. But Tiger took a turn for the worse overnight. He had to be put down on Friday morning.

“It was ironic,” Castellanos said. “I was able to go home. He was there. We were able to watch Liam’s game with him. He was happy as hell. He was in a great mood. … A boxer. Thirteen and a half years. The dog’s been all over the country. He’s flown first class. If I come back as a boxer in my next life, sign me up for that life.”