Miguel Castro preparing to work in relief
The notion of right-hander Miguel Castro starting ballgames didn’t spring to light from anyone involved in the Orioles organization. That idea wasn’t drawn up as one of former manager Buck Showalter’s thoughts to keep a band-aid effect rolling for as long as he could. Signed in January 2012 by the Toronto Blue Jays as an international free agent, Castro got his first look as a starting pitcher immediately after joining their organization.
From an article written by Shi Davidi, baseball columnist for Sportsnet in Toronto, Castro was signed out of La Romana in the Dominican Republic for a mere $43,000. He was well-liked by international scout, Ismael Cruz and speaking with Davidi, Cruz said of Castro, “I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t really like the kid.”
After being passed over by the New York Mets, Castro worked out for the Philadelphia Phillies. Impressing their scouts, he had a tentative deal in place for $180,000, pending a physical. After the physical was completed, Castro was held in limbo for two weeks and asked one of his trainers what the delay could be related to. “We have to wait for the full results,” he was told by one of his trainers. Unfortunately for Castro, he was advised the deal was voided because the Phillies were afraid he wouldn’t be able to stay healthy due to his tall-skinny frame. “The guys from the States came over, talked to me, and their trainer told me my arm probably wasn’t good enough for two innings, in the long run I was going to get hurt, so they voided the contract,” he recounted with Davidi.
Upon agreeing to the deal with the Blue Jays, Castro was immediately assigned to their DSL affiliate and made five relief appearances and three starts that summer. All three starts came against the DSL affiliate for the Detroit Tigers. The first on July 8, pitching two innings and allowing two earned runs while striking out four. The second on July 25, pitching five innings and surrendering two runs on just one hit. And the final on August 9, where he earned his first no-decision as a professional, pitching four innings, giving up three runs and striking out five.
Throughout his tenure in the Blue Jays minor league system, the idea was toyed with of Castro being a starter. He made 32 starts over parts of the next two seasons before being included as part of a four-player deal that sent him to the Colorado Rockies for pitcher LaTroy Hawkins and infielder Troy Tulowitzki in July of 2015. Posting a 13-7 record, with a 2.32 ERA in 147.1 innings and 166 strikeouts, Castro was the 10th ranked prospect in the Blue Jays organization before the trade.
Castro, who turned 24 in December, never had the chance to start a game while in the Rockies organization. Making 20 relief appearances in the Rockies minor league system, Castro logged 29.1 innings, pitching to an inflated 6.19 ERA. As part of the September call-ups, Castro appeared in five games with the Rockies in 2015 at the big league level. Again, all relief appearances, he pitched just 5.1 innings and allowed six earned runs. Over his two seasons in Colorado, Castro made 24 relief appearances, pitching to a 7.20 ERA. He battled multiple injuries in 2016 and was eventually traded to the Orioles on April 7, 2017 for minor league reliever, Jon Keller.
Since joining the Orioles, the thought of Castro returning to the starting rotation has always been discussed. “I wouldn’t take it out of the realm of him starting depending how the changeup progresses,” former manager Buck Showalter said of Castro in 2017. “He’s a sharp kid. He’s smart. He’s a watcher of the game. He watches in between innings in the dugout. He sees every pitch.”
In his two starts with the Orioles, Castro has never made it out of the fourth inning though and has found much more success in a middle-relief role. Of his 62 relief appearances last season, 34 of them were multiple inning outings with 20 of them for two innings or more. He finished the season with a 3.66 ERA in relief through 83.2 innings and his 3.96 ERA led the entire pitching staff (among pitchers with a minimum of 50 IP).
Speaking with the media yesterday through his translator, Ramón Alarcón, Castro shared his thoughts on what role he expects to play during the 2019 season. “The way I’m preparing myself is to be a reliever right now,” he said. “I’ll leave it up to the manager and the pitching coach to decide which kind of specific role out of the bullpen. I just want to help my team.”
Castro’s role will officially be determined by the coaching staff over the next few weeks, but he says regardless, he’s excited to be back for another Spring Training with the team. “First and foremost, thank God for me being here this spring,’ said through Alarcón. “I feel happy to be here, [I’m] excited for the season to start and hopefully we can have a really good season.”