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Notes: Castro provides intrigue; injury updates

@beckjason
February 24, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had three of MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 prospects in the same rotation at Double-A Erie last summer. They had a reliever whose fastball can approach triple digits. The nastiest fastball on the staff arguably belonged to Anthony Castro.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had three of MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 prospects in the same rotation at Double-A Erie last summer. They had a reliever whose fastball can approach triple digits. The nastiest fastball on the staff arguably belonged to Anthony Castro.

“When I was catching him, it was pretty easy to catch, because you could always rely on his heater,” catcher Jake Rogers said. “It cuts.”

Castro doesn’t throw a cutter. He throws a fastball that happens to cut. And he can throw it into the mid-90s, complementing a sweeping slider.

“He's got good stuff,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Tigers' 11-1 loss to the Astros on Monday. “He can do some things. We just have to see more of him now.”

When Castro is on, center fielder Derek Hill said, he can be the most uncomfortable pitcher to face.

“Everything he throws moves,” Hill said. “You could see it from center field, just darting everywhere. If the catcher called three fastballs straight, they’d all do something different. But they’d hit the spot.”

Castro struggled to hit spots in his first Grapefruit League appearance Monday, but he was still filthy. He struck out his first two batters on sinkers before his 93-mph fastball veered inside on Alex De Goti. After an Abraham Toro single, Castro lost another fastball that hit Osvaldo Duarte.

The Astros’ regulars who made the trip had long since left the game. With the bases loaded, Castro nearly hit another batter, Jake Adams, but put him in an 0-2 count. Adams fouled off five fastballs and sliders on his way to an 11-pitch walk and an end to Castro’s afternoon.

Castro threw 32 pitches in the inning. Only one was put in play.

Castro’s pitches were good enough to land him in Major League camp after seven Minor League seasons. Still, at just 24 years old, he has a chance pitch himself into the Tigers’ long-term plans from the bullpen if he can learn better command.

While Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Tarik Skubal and Joey Wentz were the headliners in a star-studded Erie rotation, Castro had a do-everything role. He jumped in the rotation enough to make 18 starts, then slotted into the bullpen for nine relief appearances.

When Castro was on, he was dominant. He needed just 91 pitches to rack up 11 strikeouts over seven innings of one-hit ball on a getaway afternoon in mid-June. He also racked up nine walks over 11 2/3 innings in his next two starts and returned to the bullpen. He recorded seven innings in less than 100 pitches three times, but he threw 97 pitches over just 4 1/3 innings in his season finale.

The one common denominator was that he missed bats. Castro struck out 116 batters over 102 1/3 innings, a rate of 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings that sits nearly two full strikeouts above his career average. He allowed just 75 hits, but with nearly as many walks (65), resulting in a 5.7 BB/9 rate that is also nearly two walks above his career mark.

The Tigers were still undecided on what to do with him, so they sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where his 20 strikeouts over 19 2/3 innings against some of baseball’s top prospects backed up what he did in Erie.

With Castro days away from becoming a Minor League free agent, the Tigers re-signed him. Then they added him to the 40-man roster to prevent another club from plucking him in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Tigers would love to take his power stuff and put him in a relief role, but he has to show more consistency to get there.

Quick hits

Niko Goodrum was not on the lineup card or in batting practice groups Monday as part of a scheduled day off. He was not injured. Instead, he spent the morning doing infield work.

Jake Rogers continues to receive treatment for his stiff back, which has sidelined him from the last four games. He remains day-to-day.

• Outfielder Jacob Robson, who was hit in the dugout by a line-drive foul ball Saturday, is still having headaches and remains in concussion protocol, Gardenhire said.

Up next

Spencer Turnbull puts his refined fitness and power arsenal to the test when he makes his first start of the season Tuesday against the Mets in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Joker Marchant Stadium. Turnbull struck out eight Mets over 7 1/3 innings last May but took a 4-3 loss as part of a 3-17 rookie season.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.