DETROIT -- Willi Castro’s long-awaited first Opening Day in the Majors came against the team that traded him to Detroit three years ago. He now gets to watch the Indians, his old organization, move on from the All-Star shortstop who blocked his path to Cleveland years ago.
“It’s a big, big day, a big opportunity to be here,” Castro said Thursday morning ahead of the season opener. “I wake up every day thanking God for the opportunity.”
Castro took advantage of the opportunity on Thursday, leading off the fifth inning of the Tigers' 3-2 win against the Tribe to account for one of Detroit's five hits in the game.
Not only did Castro watch Francisco Lindor dazzle with Cleveland for years, he emulated him, even though they’re just four years apart in age. He still does. If not for the Leonys Martin trade in 2018, Castro might have been in position to succeed Lindor with the Tribe, which might have been fitting.
“He was one of my role models,” Castro said. “I saw him play. I learned a lot from him. And yeah, it’s going to be a little different. But I’m going to keep looking at his games to keep the stuff he does, and keep growing.”
Castro will now have to watch Mets games to do it. The Indians traded Lindor to New York in January for a package of four young players and another familiar face. Amed Rosario was New York's shortstop for the better part of three seasons before he was dealt to Cleveland on Jan. 7. Rosario is also a longtime friend of Castro; both worked out for the Mets in the Dominican Republic before signing as amateurs -- Rosario with New York, Castro with Cleveland. They’re still good friends who lived and trained together in Florida during baseball’s shutdown last year.
If that’s not enough, Castro married Rosario’s sister.
The two caught up on Wednesday on the field between both teams’ workouts.
“Every time we talk, we don’t really talk about baseball,” Castro said.
Even though Thursday marked an Opening Day together, it was not a big family reunion. Though Castro’s wife and baby are in town, they watched the game on TV instead of going to the park due to the cold weather.
“Maybe the next day. That’s going to be better,” Castro said.
Turnbull resumes throwing program
While the Tigers opened their season at Comerica Park, right-hander Spencer Turnbull received clearance to return to the team’s Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla. He spent the final week of camp in COVID-19 protocol and opened the season on the non-baseball injury list.
Turnbull will throw a few bullpen sessions in Lakeland before reporting to the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, manager A.J. Hinch said. From there, Turnbull will return to game action for the equivalent of a rehab assignment before he returns to the Tigers' rotation. He’s expected to miss at least the first few series of the season.
Stewart designated for assignment
Christin Stewart was the Tigers’ Opening Day hero two years ago with an extra-inning home run at Toronto. He was Detroit's starting left fielder on Opening Day in July in Cincinnati. On Thursday, the former first-round Draft pick was designated for assignment to make room for reliever Derek Holland on the 40-man roster.
Stewart’s fate on the Opening Day roster was pretty much sealed in the offseason, when the Tigers signed veteran corner outfielders Robbie Grossman on Jan. 5 and Nomar Mazara on Feb. 12. By designating Stewart for assignment, the Tigers put him on waivers for teams to potentially claim. If he clears waivers, Detroit can outright his contract to Triple-A Toledo.
“We obviously still think he’s a good player and has potential,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’ll let the process play out now, but as we build this team, we’ve already had hard decisions to make. We’re going to have harder decisions on who to keep on the roster, who not to keep on the roster, as guys are pushing to get to the big leagues. It’s part of the business and part of the time.
“It’s tough when you’re the player and it’s tough news. I didn’t deliver it to him, but I can imagine he’s at a crossroads.”