Luis Castillo said he learned last year it’s not about how you start but about how you finish. That was true for him and the Cincinnati Reds.
Castillo had a 4.50 ERA in two July starts, a 3.91 ERA in five August starts and the pitched his best in September, posting a 2.20 ERA in five starts. The Reds won 11 of their last 14 games to finish 31-29 and make their first postseason appearance in seven years.
“Really all that hard work pays off at the end of the season for you,” Castillo told reporters through an interpreter in February after reporting to spring training.
Castillo’s late-season success carried over into the playoffs. He allowed one run on six hits and struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings. The Atlanta Braves led 1-0 when he left the mound in the sixth but scored four runs in the eighth against the Reds bullpen and completed a two-game sweep.
Castillo enters the 2021 season as the longest-tenured starter in the Reds rotation. This will be his fifth season with the Reds. He made his big-league debut in June 2017 and his 32-33 with a 3.62 ERA in 90 starts.
In 2019, baseball’s last full season, Castillo made the All-Star team for the first time and finished 15-8 with a 3.40 ERA. Last season, Castillo was 4-6 with a 3.21 ERA.
In a February list of the top 100 players in baseball compiled by MLB.com, he ranked No. 85, a six-spot improvement from 2021. Another Reds starter, Sonny Gray, ranked right behind him at No. 86. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez, No. 63, was the only other Reds player on the list.
Castillo said his goal this spring was to bring that same mental and physical focus into this spring.
“With that in mind, you have to try to work even harder,” he said.
Curt Casali often caught Castillo last season. He signed with the San Francisco Giants in the offseason, so Castillo will work with Tucker Barnhart or Tyler Stephenson, who’s expected to be the Reds’ second catcher.
“You’re going to have to learn with other catchers,” Castillo said. “You can’t just have one single catcher. I’m going to work with other catchers and make sure that I have a lot of confidence in them, so they can call the right pitches and I can throw the right pitches.”
Castillo was one of the names that came up in trade rumors over the offseason. He talked to his agent, who told him they were false rumors.
“It’s all a business,” he said. “One day you could be with the organization, and the next day, you’re traded. It’s part of the offseason.”
NOTES: Wade Miley threw 1 1/3 innings Thursday in his first spring training appearance of the season before exiting the game with a hamstring injury. ... The Reds beat the Chicago White Sox 7-4 to improve to 3-7 in the Cactus League. Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning.
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