McCoy: Reds starter Castillo optimistic despite struggles

Right-hander who is 1-7 with 7.71 ERA this season believes he’s close to turning things around

Luis Castillo is a practicing member of Eugenio Suarez’s mantra: “Good vibes only.”

Despite a season-long battle with sub-mediocrity, the smile on Suarez’s face never disappears and his equipment is safe from extensive abuse.

And that has to be difficult when Suarez looks at the stats sheet and sees his .148 batting average with a league-leading 54 strikeouts in 157 plate appearances.

It looked briefly recently that Suarez might be emerging from his offensive hibernation when he went 6 for 13 during a three-game span. Then he slipped back.

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Beginning Sunday, when the Reds concluded a three-city road trip in Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies, Suarez was 1 for 14.

And on Sunday he was back at shortstop, were he began the season, and Nick Senzel was at third base.

Castillo doesn’t pitch again until Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants in Great American Ball Park.

Don’t be surprised if he takes the mound with horseshoes in both back pockets and a rabbit’s foot dangling around his neck.

Castillo, 1-7 with a 7.71 earned run average, says a lot of his troubles can be placed at the feet of Lady Luck. And it’s all bad.

After a slow start in April, things have slowed down even more in May. During three starts this month, all losses, he has pitched only 13 innings and given up 17 runs and 23 hits.

Nevertheless, his catcher, Tucker Barnhart, his manager, David Bell, and he, himself, keep the good vibes only by telling the media that Castillo is just a thumb nail away from returning to his dominance.

In the cases of Barnhart and Bell, it is a matter of trying to boost Castillo’s confidence, prevent him from sinking into the doldrums.

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As Bell said, “We need him.”

Castillo outwardly appears to remain on the upbeat, attributing a lot of his problems to bad luck.

“It is more just bad luck,” he said of his performances. “We have been having a lot of bad luck. I think my repertoire has been getting better each time I got out there. It is more bad luck that’s going on.”

Asked to cite specific examples, Castillo referred to a plethora of bloop hits and ground balls between the infielders, plus an error or two.

“A couple of specific things — like a blooper with the bases loaded when we’re trying to get the last guy out with two outs,” he said. “Just bloopers over second and bloopers over shortstop. Those are great for the batters, but tough for the pitchers. It’s part of baseball, I know.”

Barnhart spoke in almost a pleading matter to state a positive case for Castillo after the Colorado beatdown.

“He made some really good pitches tonight,” said Barnhart. “This game is a son-of-a-gun. There are times when it doesn’t seem like anything will go right. In the big inning, when he came out of the game, there were like six hits in the inning and the ones that did the damage were not really hit that hard.

“It just seems like in situations when you are struggling and things aren’t going your way, it continues to snowball,” added Barnhart. “We just have to keep punching out of it. What I’ve said in a long-winded way is that Luis is making a lot of good pitches. He’s really close. I know we all keep saying that, but he’s really close.”

Castillo, of course, appreciates the propping up he gets from Barnhart.

“I have a lot of confidence with him (Barnhart), whether it’s him catching me or what he tells me,” said Castillo. “In anything we do, we have a great partnership. I appreciate the whole team, as well. They always have my back and they give me a lot of feedback and support.”

In his last start, Thursday night against the Rockies, he gave up eight runs and 10 hits in only 3 2/3 innings.

Sore shoulder? Sore elbow? Castillo says health is no issue.

“I felt really good that last time I went out to the mound,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to go out there every time (every fifth day), but those little things that happen on the field, they just happen. Regardless, I still feel healthy and I still feel good.”

MONDAY’S GAME

Giants at Reds, 6:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

In that last start, he was throwing 97 mph sinkers, but his location was not what might be called prime real estate. He was all over the place. And his change-up remains lost somewhere in space.

“I try to stay as relaxed as I can, not frustrated,” he said. “If I am frustrated, it’s not going to turn out great for me. I try not to think those negative thoughts. I’m thinking positively as much as I can and try to get better as I go along.”

Baseball is results-oriented and both Suarez and Castillo know that. ‘Good vibes only’ and bad luck are fine talking points, but what is really needed is, “Good results only.”