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Castillo surprised, excited by Opening Day start

Righty was not expecting to get March 28 nod: 'This is cool'
@m_sheldon
March 20, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds pitcher Luis Castillo was working out on Tuesday afternoon when pitching coach Derek Johnson informed him he was wanted in manager David Bell’s office for a chat. Any concerns that it would be an unhappy discussion with Bell dissipated quickly. Then the news was delivered that

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds pitcher Luis Castillo was working out on Tuesday afternoon when pitching coach Derek Johnson informed him he was wanted in manager David Bell’s office for a chat.

Any concerns that it would be an unhappy discussion with Bell dissipated quickly. Then the news was delivered that Castillo would be Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter.

“When I came into his office, there was laughing so I knew right away that it wasn’t something bad,” Castillo said on Wednesday morning through translator Julio Morillo. “After that, he talked to me about it. I didn’t realize and then said, ‘Oh my God, this is cool.’ It’s a good thing that happened to me.”

Castillo, 26, will be the fifth different Opening Day starter in five years and follows Johnny Cueto (2015), Raisel Iglesias (’16), Scott Feldman (’17) and Homer Bailey (’18).

Per tradition that honors the Reds' place as baseball’s first professional club, they open the season at home against the Pirates on March 28 at 4:10 p.m. ET. Opening Day is always treated like a local holiday in Cincinnati, with the Findlay Market parade and the usual pomp and circumstance. There is added value that this is the 150th anniversary of the Reds' franchise, which Major League Baseball is also observing.

“I’m really proud. It’s like a goal that I’ve achieved in my career,” Castillo said. “I think it’s really big. Cincinnati is the right city to be the Opening Day starter. I think the fans deserve that, what they’re waiting for and expecting. I think it’s going to be a good game.”

Castillo immediately called his family upon receiving the news of the honor, which he was not expecting to get over the likes of Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark or Anthony DeSclafani. Gray will start the second game, March 30 against Pittsburgh, and be followed by Roark and DeSclafani in the rotation.

“I was really surprised because they’ve been in the league longer, they’re veterans,” Castillo said. “I was really surprised when they told me I was going to be the Opening Day starter. But I’m really happy I have the opportunity.”

Over 31 starts and 169 2/3 innings last season, Castillo was 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He gave up a team-high 28 home runs, which was third-most in the National League. But the club is hoping they see the pitcher that found his groove after the All-Star break and especially over the final month of 2018.

Castillo posted a 2.44 ERA in 11 second-half starts, including a 1.09 ERA over his final five starts. That included 10 scoreless innings over his last two games.

The results haven’t been as crisp during Spring Training, where Castillo has a 12.46 ERA in four Cactus League games. Over his 8 2/3 innings, he’s allowed 13 hits, five walks and two home runs with 10 strikeouts.

“I feel like he’d have an inning sprinkled in each time where he allowed some runs,” Bell said. “Each time out, his good innings seemed to get better. The way we look at this, the way I look at it, Spring Training is important but also we look at a much bigger picture than that. It’s such a short sample, we really have to keep that in mind. What he’s done up until this year, it just is a bigger factor than what he’s done this spring. It’s just that simple.”

Castillo had no concerns either. He feels ready for Opening Day.

“Yes, of course,” he said. “Right now, I feel really strong and really good.”

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.