A refreshed Castellanos: 'Last year was last year'

February 19th, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. --  used the word “comfortable.”

Comfortable is good.

“Last year, I was just pissed off, unhappy, frustrated,” Castellanos said Sunday morning at BayCare Ballpark, where he arrived in preparation for the Phillies’ first full-squad workout Tuesday. “Baseball wasn’t fun. It was a job. I’m very lucky that I’ve never worked a day in my life. And to do something that you don’t love doing sucks. What I love doing is playing baseball with my friends and beating the team that’s not wearing the same uniform that we’re wearing. That’s the only thing that I’m worried about. Last year was last year. That’s where it stays -- in last year.”

Castellanos’ path from the five-year, $100 million contract he signed in March to the World Series wasn’t a straight one.

Or necessarily easy.

Or always fun.

He said after the Phillies lost Game 6 of the World Series that he just completed one of the most difficult years of baseball in his life, and that it made him already excited for Spring Training. Castellanos slashed just .263/.305/.389 with 13 home runs, 62 RBIs and a career-low .694 OPS last season. He hit well in April, but he struggled in May. It carried into the summer. Castellanos seemed to be finally turning a corner late summer -- he batted .318 with an .833 OPS in 34 games from July 25 to Sept. 2 -- when he landed on the IL with a strained right oblique and turf toe.

But there were more than just on-field struggles. Perhaps nothing unnerved or upset him more than learning on Opening Day that the location of his new home in South Jersey had been made public. He got booed at times, too.

“Personally, it was the hardest year,” Castellanos said. “From a team standpoint, it was the best. I think it was just having everything move as fast as it did. I wasn’t comfortable at home. I wasn’t comfortable here. I wasn’t comfortable anywhere.”

It carried into the batter’s box.

“It’s not like the batter’s box is a separate place from the rest of your life,” he said. “That was tough to deal with.”

Does he think that is behind him?

“I don’t have any expectations, but I’m much more prepared this year than I was last year,” he said. “I think the only thing I’m really focused on this year is being the best teammate I can be, and not coming up two wins short [of a World Series championship]. Everything else is going to fall into place. Expectations, what I’m going to do. Philly doesn’t care what Nick does. Philly cares about what the Phillies do. I’m not coming here thinking I have to be someone. I’m just coming in, ready to play. I’m going to be here for everybody and play baseball.”

But good baseball from Castellanos would help the cause. He slashed .286/.338/.515 with a 122 OPS+ from 2016-21. Imagine that production with Trea Turner atop the lineup and Bryce Harper rejoining the team in the summer.

“Last year was such a whirlwind,” Castellanos said. “I’ve had time to sit back and reflect on everything. The moment the season ended last year, I could just relax and plan. It was fun. I got to go home and just get on my normal life routine with [wife] Jess, [son] Otto and [son] Liam. And just kind of take in everything that happened, from signing last year, being here -- and, shoot -- getting to the World Series. Falling two wins short definitely made me hungrier.”