Triggering the 'Miguel Castro Starting Experiment' makes sense in a season that should mainly be about the future - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Triggering the ‘Miguel Castro Starting Experiment’ makes sense in a season that should mainly be about the future

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The idea of Miguel Castro starting baseball games has been kicked around for a while in the Orioles organization.

He made one start at the end of last season – it didn’t go swimmingly (three runs, 3 1/3 innings) — and was used as a starter in his injury-shortened spring before the open rotation spots were filled by Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman and Alex Cobb.

But with Tillman on the disabled list with a lower back injury and an inflated ERA, a spot has opened, and Castro was scheduled to get the ball to start Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies – but now Cashner will  pick up that assignment after Tuesday’s night game was postponed.

We’re not sure when Castro will get another opportunity, or how long  that audition may last. One start, a few, the rest of the season?

In what has suddenly become Twilight Zone worthy, the beleaguered Orioles’ rotation could have too many suitable starters and not enough spots: Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Cashner and Cobb have done enough – despite some inconsistencies – to get the ball every fifth day.

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And rookie David Hess deserves another chance to show that his quality start on Saturday was not an aberration.

Then there’s Castro, who is only 23. That’s younger than Bundy, younger than Hess, even two weeks younger than Orioles’ top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey.

Castro made his big league debut at age 20 and 142 days back in 2015 as a reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was handed the closer’s job, and it didn’t work out. He was traded that year to the Colorado Rockies as part of the deadline deal that sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto.

Castro struggled with the Rockies – he’s not the first to have a Coors Field affliction – and the Orioles acquired him in April 2017 for future considerations (eventually minor leaguer Jon Keller).

Castro ultimately became a fixture in the Orioles’ bullpen last year, posting a 3.53 ERA in 39 games (one start) and 66 1/3 innings. He’s been nearly as effective this year, a 3.55 ERA in 15 games, though his walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) has jumped from 1.22 to 1.34.

The time seems perfect to put Castro into the rotation, at least temporarily, to see what he can do. He’s coming off a relief performance Thursday in which he threw 65 pitches in 4 2/3 scoreless innings. That’s about as long as a reliever will go these days, so he was effectively “stretched out” and on proper rest for Wednesday.

There’s a spot begging to be filled and the Orioles’ season is effectively ripe for experimenting and evaluating.

And, as solid as Castro has been as a multi-inning reliever for the Orioles, there’s no question that starters are more valuable than relievers. So, his opportunity to dance should be given some legs.

That said, there are skeptics.

I recently was talking to a scout who said he thought the acquisition of Castro was one of the shrewdest moves in the Dan Duquette Era.

“I love Miguel Castro, the way he pitches, the presentation, the stuff,” the scout told me.

“Think his future is as a starter?” I asked.

“Nope,” the scout responded quickly. “Listen, it’s a worth a try, but he’s effective as a reliever and he doesn’t seem to be equipped to pitch every fifth day.”

The scout made a couple points.

One, Castro has been primarily a two-pitch pitcher his career: fastball and slider, though his use of his changeup has increased dramatically in 2018 (from 11 percent to 19 percent, while his fastball usage has dropped from 61.5 percent to 52.5 percent, according to Fangraphs).

The scout believes Castro’s stuff is much more effective facing a lineup once opposed to multiple times.

The second part is the scout wonders whether Castro’s lanky body – he’s listed as 6-foot-7, 205 pounds – and moving-parts delivery will be able to stand up to 180 innings or so during the course of a regular season in a rotation. Indeed, Castro’s body seemed to balk at the beginning of spring training, when he was beginning preparation to be a starter.

My thought here is that it’s worth a try to see how Castro fares, given the aforementioned value associated with rotation members. If it doesn’t stick, the Orioles can return him to the pen, no harm or foul. Plus, pitchers get hurt no matter what role they are in, that’s just the nature of the beast.

So, this is the right time for Castro to dabble in starting. Time and Castro will let us know whether it’s the right call.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 16, 2018 at 7:21 am

    To paraphrase that crapshooting rascal, Joel Goodson: “Sometimes you just have to say ‘What the … Heck’, and make your move.”

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 8:46 am

      That could sum up the season philosophy

  2. Oriolesfan17

    May 16, 2018 at 7:40 am

    I have a very similar opinion to you, it’s worth a shot. At the end of the day you might find an average or even slightly above average MLB SP (kinda like a Jeremy Guthrie). Those guys can be valuable in the long run. Every good team has a certain amount of luck were a player significantly out performs what they are projected to be.

    That’s also why guys like Presley and Saunders opting out of their MiLB deals isn’t a huge concern from my perspective. I think those spots would better be filled by younger guys (is not directly from what the O’s already have) just some younger MiLB free agent to Os might like. They don’t have any OF (besides maybe McKenna and Nichting) that are deserving of a promotion .

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 8:47 am

      It’s all about trying to find the right fit. That’s what good teams do. This is a good time to try and find that mix.

  3. Osfan73

    May 16, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Why fix something that isn’t broken? And right now Castro in long relief is one of the few things on this team not broken at present. I say give Hess a few more starts and see what you have, how he responds to adversity etc etc….
    There are 121 games left, plenty of time to get Castro some starts.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 8:49 am

      Very true. Very reasoned. But there is a spot open now. So it makes some sense. If it’s not now, it should definitely be this year. Now just works since he has already been stretched out.

  4. Orial

    May 16, 2018 at 9:01 am

    In an emergency and a strong upside giving him a shot makes sense. with Hess possibly making a statement and 4 regular starters a 5 man rotation may have already developed though. My question is–when Tillman comes of the “DL” will he fall into the rotation much to everyone’s disgust(we all know how loyal Buck is)or will Hess be given more chances?

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 10:44 am

      I think if Tillman looks like Tillman again he’ll get a chance back in the rotation. If not, no idea what happens

  5. Dblack2508

    May 16, 2018 at 9:26 am

    At this point in the season, the Orioles should experiment with anything that will make them better. The one scout has a valid point if Castro only has two pitches.

  6. JParsley

    May 16, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Why not give him a try? Heck I would give Chris Davis a start just because it would be entertaining

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      It was the first time.

  7. BunkerFan

    May 16, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Hi Dan, Alex Presley today triggered the 48 hour window on his Opt-Out clause. Do you think the O’s are going to let him leave? Seems to me he would be a better person to have than Pedro or Gentry. First, he’s a decent hitter, top of the order type, and he a decent outfielder; second he bats left handed and the O’s are short in that department. That’s why they signed him initially.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      It’ll be interesting. He’s a solid reserve and hits left-handed. I don’t think Showalter is as sold on his D compared to say Gentry. But he has a better bat.

  8. BunkerFan

    May 16, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Hi Dan, Alex Presley today triggered the 48 hour window on his Opt-Out clause. Do you think the O’s are going to let him leave? Seems to me he would be a better person to have than Pedro or Gentry. First, he’s a decent hitter, top of the order type, and he a decent outfielder; second he bats left handed and the O’s are short in that department. That’s why they signed him initially. Hitting .275 with a .347 OPB and playing a flawless OF. Meanwhile Gentry is .206/.265. Why keep him over Presley? Just because he’s a Buck fave?
    Whoops! Sorry about the double post. Computer foul

  9. willmiranda

    May 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    I agree with the scout’s assessment. If you want to turn him into a starter, send him to Norfolk to get lots of work, to see if he can get through the order several times and if he has the physical stamina to get through a season. Up here, if he’s having difficulty, he’ll get pulled early; down there, he should have less difficulty, and they can be more patient with leaving him in, just to build him up. We can also hope he puts some more meat on those bones.

    • Dan Connolly

      May 16, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      The real question is whether his changeup can be an effective MLB pitch. If it can, he’ll be fine as a starter.

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