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Castillo proving he can be a horse for Reds

@m_sheldon
September 14, 2019

PHOENIX -- There is just one pitcher in the Major Leagues this season who has crossed 200 innings -- Astros ace Justin Verlander -- and the chance for a handful more to join him by the end. Reds ace Luis Castillo won’t be one of those pitchers, but every inning

PHOENIX -- There is just one pitcher in the Major Leagues this season who has crossed 200 innings -- Astros ace Justin Verlander -- and the chance for a handful more to join him by the end. Reds ace Luis Castillo won’t be one of those pitchers, but every inning he does pitch extends his career high.

With five innings in Friday’s 4-3 Reds win over Arizona, Castillo is at 178 2/3 for the season. In 2018, he reached 169 2/3 innings, and he had that same total in ’17, combining his work at Double-A Pensacola and as a big league rookie.

“I feel very happy because I’m almost at 180 innings,” Castillo said on Saturday through translator Julio Morillo. “That means I prepared myself last year, that I’ve kept preparing myself this year. I’ve been healthy and able to go out there. I’m able to throw 98-99 mph fastballs, which makes me feel good. Also, with the confidence the team and the manager has given me, I get to go as long and deep in games as I can.”

No Reds pitcher has crossed 200 innings since Johnny Cueto led the Majors with 243 2/3 innings in 2014.

“It’s one of my main goals for next year,” Castillo said. “I want to try to pitch 200-plus innings and get 200-plus strikeouts as well. That’s what I will go home and prepare myself for.”

Castillo, 26, is 15-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 30 starts and has a career-high 211 strikeouts. He earned his first All-Star honor and Opening Day start.

Cueto and Alfredo Simon in ’14 were the last Cincinnati pitchers with at least 15 wins.

After Castillo's four-seam fastball velocity dipped in 2018, it has trended upward from an average of 95.8 mph last season to 96.3.

Reds manager David Bell believes Castillo can continue to thrive with bigger expectations.

“I think this is a year that he now has under his belt that he’s just going to gain so much confidence from this year,” Bell said. “He’s pitched very well, but he’s been able to be consistent throughout the whole year. Now we’re near the end, we know he can make it now. To go through a whole year without any dips -- there’s been starts that are better than others, but for the most part, he’s been as consistent as any pitcher in baseball, I’ve got to believe.”

Lorenzen makes second start in center field
For the second time in two weeks -- and this season -- Bell started reliever Michael Lorenzen in center field on Saturday. With Nick Senzel out for the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Bell has the opportunity to get more looks at Lorenzen as a position player. He had been more judicious with how he used Lorenzen in the field most of the season.

“I’d like to have a little bit more of a clear picture of what that would look like next year for us and for him,” Bell said. “It’s not based on how he plays. It’s more just seeing how he responds. How [his body] responds to it, and how to get some days where we kind of go through the process of him just doing it more, whether it’s starting or coming into the game.”

Lorenzen worked scoreless seventh and eighth innings while throwing 29 pitches during Friday’s win. He moved to center field for the ninth as Raisel Iglesias closed the game.

“It made sense today. He pitched two innings last night, was up a few times, so he was completely unavailable today,” Bell said.

One issue the Reds could face is that if Lorenzen is injured trying to make a play in the field or while hitting, the club would lose both a pitcher and outfielder in one moment.

"When it comes to stuff like that, it can happen doing anything. All of us, no matter if we’re pitching, position players or everyday life, it can happen any time. It’s no way to think,” Bell said. “I think he reduces that risk just by the way he takes care of himself. He controls everything he can to limit that risk.”

VanMeter does a good Gruden
After Reds rookie infielder/outfielder Josh VanMeter hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning on Friday, he returned to the dugout and exchanged a robust shout of “BOOM!” with teammates. It’s part of his imitation of Oakland Raiders head coach and former broadcaster Jon Gruden.

“I guess I do a really good Jon Gruden impression. That’s kind of been the talk of the clubhouse lately,” VanMeter said.

VanMeter, who can also exaggerate Gruden’s cadence and facial expressions, realized it was catching on recently when Bell gave him a “Boom!”

“You have to go to YouTube and watch some Gruden videos,” VanMeter said. “That’s where you’ll notice the ‘Boom!’ It’s funny.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.