Bronx, NY – Luis Castillo heard the trade talk a few weeks ago in the Bronx when he last pitched against the Yankees in a Reds uniform, then the right-hander was a sought after starter. The Yankees eyed him to pitch in pinstripes but last Friday and days before a hectic trade deadline, the Seattle Mariners became the winner and Castillo packed his bags.
Just a few weeks ago in a Reds uniform, Castillo shut out the Yankees in the Bronx for seven innings, his first career start against them and many were saying it could have been an audition. Then he threw 114 pitches on two hits.
He had the potent Yankees lineup perplexed, The fastball, changeup, slider, and curve had them frustrated in their attempts to adjust their swings.
Wednesday afternoon in the Bronx, Castillo (Boni, Dominican Republic) returned and similar to a few weeks ago, he had the Yankees looking for answers, this time, though, early run support with a six-run first inning from the Mariners lineup.
And this time it was his debut outing with the Mariners. Next week, Castillo could be slated to get another start against the Yankees, and in Seattle wearing the home uniform.
The Mariners, in the AL Wild card hunt, knew they needed a frontline starter. The Yankees could be an eventual team they meet in October, all pending of course on the expanded postseason field. But in the Bronx again, it was Luis Castillo and taking care of business.
“They were one of the teams that was very interested in me, but I’m with the Mariners now and just got to keep moving forward,” Castillo, (5-4) said through an interpreter after the Mariners 7-3 win, taking two of three from the Yankees.
“And now I’m here to take this team as far as I can,” he said. The Mariners are banking on Castillo to get them to the postseason, though there is no extra pressure or a feeling of being intimidated
He handled the Yankees a second time and said there was no added pressure to be intimidated, or for that matter to go that extra mile. Though, the 29-year old was known to thrive under pressure during his 5-½ years of service time with the Reds.
He is now in a pennant race, also a change of scenery as the Reds continue to rebuild and are out of contention in the National League Central standings.
When asked about pitching against a Yankees team that was in pursuit to get him, Castillo said “It was a little emotional. But that did not distract me from my routine.”
His line in the Bronx this time: 6.2 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER, 8K’s, 1 HR, 109 pitches.
Castillo has recorded at least 8 strikeouts in each of his last four starts, the longest stretch of his career. The Mariners at one time had a similar type of pitcher from Venezuela, Felix Hernandez, a few years prior to manager Scott Servais taking over the team.
“Thought he was awesome,” Servais said. “Couldn’t be any more excited about what he’s going to bring to our ballclub, his stability, taking the ball every fifth day and the confidence and stuff.”
From the first inning, Castillo was hitting the corners with four seamers, 66 pitches went for strikes. Three Mariners home runs in the first inning off Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, which led to that six-run inning, ended up being enough of the run support he needed.
He retired 10 straight Yankees and then consecutive walks in the sixth got him in trouble. He threw a slider and got Andrew Benintendi on a liner to second and got out of the jam.
Then in the seventh, Castillo with 95 pitches got the first two Yankees, After a single, his afternoon was done after a two run homer from Kyle Higashioka. Castillo gave the ball to Servais and headed to the dugout. His new teammates gave him pats on the back.
“I wasn’t the manager here during the vintage Felix Hernadez days, but kind of looking at Felix when he was coming through in his heyday, that’s what it reminded me of today,” Servais said.
The manager said, “This guy is a dude.” Well, perhaps more than a dude and one of the elite pitchers in baseball.
“I’ve only been here two days, but what I can tell from these guys is that they’re playing to win,” Castillo said. “So yeah, of course, I’m feeling that energy.” Jesse Winker, former Reds teammate of Castillo said It was just another Luis Castillo start.
“He did great. First start here, I’m sure he was fired up and excited and he did his thing.”
And there will be more. The Yankees didn’t get Castillo, he’s a Mariner and could be the starting rotation link that gets them to the postseason.
Rich Mancuso is a senior writer @Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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