Well, Nick Castellanos has been mentioned on this blog about a billion times, so one more time probably won’t hurt anything. He did have a great season with the Toledo Mud Hens this past summer, that earned him a call up to the Detroit Tigers in September. Despite not making the playoff roster, many believe he has a great shot a being the Tigers’ everyday left fielder in 2014 (with the Tigers trading Prince Fielder, he looks to have a shot at starting at third base now). Also mentioned many times before, we had the luxury of watching him play for the West Michigan Whitecaps back in 2011, and he was nice enough to sign a baseball for Lily. So, here is another interview from MiLB.com, this one done by Sam Dykstra. Enjoy…
Castellanos: I think I approached it pretty well. They were trying to find a spot for me in the lineup with Prince [Fielder] signing and Miguel [Cabrera] moving over to third. I know I’m not going to be playing third base as long as Miguel is in the organization, so when they approached me to make the move, I knew it was just about trying to find a spot for me, and that was easy to take. It’s going to be my best path to the big leagues right now, and that’s a good thing. I do miss third base, though. Eventually at some point, I’d love to go back.
MiLB.com: How long did it take to you get to comfortable out there in left field?
Castellanos: It was difficult at the beginning, to be honest. I had never played outfield in my life before that. It’s not like I was trying to learn shortstop again, like I did in high school, or making a move over to second. I had never done that in my life, so it was a different feeling out there. I felt uncomfortable at the beginning, with the game being so far away. But I have to give credit to our outfield coordinator, Gene Roof. He spent all day and all night with me trying to get everything down, and I feel much better out there.
MiLB.com: Another part of the transition was the move up to Triple-A Toledo. What was that like?
Castellanos: I had to mature a lot more up there, that’s for sure. You’re facing great pitchers, day in and day out. In Triple-A ball, every guy you’re facing has their approach down and knows exactly what they’ll do with you when you come up to the plate. Plus, the bullpens in Triple-A are just day-and-night better than the ones you’re facing at the lower levels. You just have to get a feel for some of the flamethrowers, make adjustments like anywhere else and be prepared for what you’ll see.
MiLB.com: That being said, you were able to handle Triple-A pitching fairly well. Why was that?
Castellanos: I think that just goes to my confidence at the plate. All I need are at-bats and a little bit of time, and things usually get around to where they need to be.
MiLB.com: Where does that confidence and your general hitting prowess come from?
Castellanos: Most of it is that I’m always working on hitting. I’ve been hitting all the time since I was little, since I started playing really. I’m always trying to learn about the game I love, and the only way I can do that is to keep working hard at it. With that, whether I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 on a given day, I’m still having fun at the plate because I like it so much up there. That amount of fun contributes to my success a little. I don’t mind putting work in because I enjoy it that much.
MiLB.com: Because of that hitting ability, you were able to get a callup to the Tigers in September during their playoff run. Describe that experience.
Castellanos: Just because who I am, I wish I got to play more when I was there, but they were competing to finish first in the division and stuff, so that happens. I got to start four games, and I was pretty happy with the way I hit when I did start. But for me, playing off the bench is difficult, you know? When I come to the park, I’m ready to go and want to get out there. I got some pinch-hit at-bats in the seventh inning or later, so that was something I had to get used to — preparing starting in the sixth, being on call, stuff like that. But above all, it was about getting used to the Major League life — the plane rides, what time to get to the field, what to do in the pregame. It was a good learning experience for that stuff.
MiLB.com: One of the things about joining that Tigers team, too, is that it’s a squad that is heavy with veterans. Was there anyone you sought out in particular?
Castellanos: First, everybody in that locker room is such a great guy. It’s easy to come into as a rookie because of that. But one guy that’s super-knowledgeable and just a super guy overall is Torii [Hunter]. He makes himself so open and so approachabl,e not only to the veterans but to the rookies like myself, too, and that’s a big help.
MiLB.com: What did you talk to him about specifically?
Castellanos: Above all, they were mostly outfield questions. I’d watch him out there and then try to pick his brain about why did he go after a ball here and why did he go that way there. The thing about Torii is that he picks up pitches so well. So if I saw him do something that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, I tried to talk to him about it. Overall, he just makes the game fun. He’s been in the game for 17, going on 18 years, so it’s great he can share stuff with me.
MiLB.com: Besides Hunter, it must have been interesting to play with Miguel Cabrera, not only because of who he is, but because you’re a guy from the Miami area.
Castellanos: It is pretty wild. In ’03, I watched the World Series with him in it, and I was actually there when he went “oppo” against Clemens after he threw at him. I was idolizing Cabrera when I was little, and then the first run I scored in the Majors was driven in by Miguel. It’s cool how everything comes full circle like that. Being 10, 11 and watching him play and now I’m with him on the field. Beyond that too, Alex Fernandez — my coach in high school — won a World Series with Jim Leyland, and I played under him too. Just cool how that all happens.
MiLB.com: Speaking of Leyland, you got to play under him right before he retired. What was that like?
Castellanos: Leyland is very professional in everything he does. From a player’s perspective, he’s fun to watch and has been doing it for so long. I think someone said that he’s filled out something like 4,800 lineup cards in his career. Anyone with that much experience in baseball, you know you have to listen and respect what they do. I feel like I know so much about baseball already. But compared to Leyland, and beyond that, [bench coach Gene] Lamont and [former hitting coach and recently named Mariners manager Lloyd] McClendon? I don’t know anything. All I can do is watch them, learn and see how Jim would manage a game, even if that meant sitting there thinking, “Why would he do this?” Being around him, I was able to just add a lot of knowledge that wasn’t there.
MiLB.com: Leyland’s also known in baseball circles as a fairly colorful character. Got any good Leyland stories?
Castellanos: The biggest thing that comes to mind is one day [Sept. 4] we got beat pretty bad by the Red Sox. It was the day [David] Ortiz got his 2,000th hit, and we lost by a lot [20-4]. I went into the clubhouse thinking, “Man, if we’re in Toledo right now, we’re going to get chewed out.” And then he walks in and just says, “Well, tomorrow’s a great day for an off-day, huh?” And that was it. It was really loose and easy, and it was his way of telling us to pick up our heads and keep on pushing through because there were a lot of other big games coming up.
MiLB.com: After those big games were through, the Tigers moved onto the playoffs, but you were left off the postseason roster. How did you handle that?
Castellanos: It was pretty nerve-racking, knowing I couldn’t help or contribute in any way. All I could do is watch from my living room in Miami. There were even a couple of times I had to turn off the TV because I couldn’t watch anymore.
MiLB.com: Many see you as likely to be on the big league roster come Opening Day. How do you approach the offseason with that in mind?
Castellanos: Pretty much like any other offseason really. I don’t want to put any added pressure on myself. I just have to work hard and be ready come spring, just like I always have.
MiLB.com: If it does come down to it, that you are the starting left fielder for the Tigers on Opening Day, how ready do you feel for that opportunity?
Castellanos: Oh, 100 percent. With the instruction I’ve gotten from the people that have helped me in the outfield, I know I’m ready. I know I can help the team right now. It’s tremendously exciting to think about. Any time you play in the big leagues is a great opportunity, and I’m ready to do that every day.
MiLB.com: With all this being said, probably the biggest thing to happen to you this year was the birth of your first child. Does Liam have a bat in his hand yet?
Castellanos: No, he’s only three months so he hasn’t touched anything yet, but he does have a couple of gloves and a couple of bats with his name on them already. When he was born, that was better than the big leagues. My Major League debut was on Sept. 1, and my son was born Aug. 1. I was there when he was born, but on the morning of Aug. 3, I had fly back to Toledo and didn’t get to see him again until Sept. 1. When I did get that callup, all the reporters were asking me, “How did you feel about your Major League debut?” What I really wanted to say was I just want to spend time with my son.
It definitely puts your perspective on an 0-for-4 day, I’ll tell you that. Whether I’m 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, I still have a beautiful, healthy son that I care a lot about. To strike out with the bases loaded or make an error in the field, it doesn’t mean so much anymore.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Former Detroit Tigers and West Michigan Whitecaps pitcher Jair Jurrjens is back. The Tigers signed him to a minor league deal, and he will report to the Toledo Mud Hens today. He last pitched in Detroit in 2007, before being traded to Atlanta. Despite his health issues, the Tigers are hoping to put him into the rotation, and not the bullpen as of yet.
“He kind of came on the scene pretty good,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland stated. “Pretty calm. Pretty collected. Make a good impression. Evidently, he’s had a lot of health issues since we had him, so I don’t have any recent update on him.”
Back in 2007, he went 3-1 with the Tigers, with a 4.70 ERA. Pitching for the Whitecaps in 2005, we was 12-6, with a 3.41 ERA and 108 strikeouts. He was a member of the ‘Caps 20th anniversary team.
Photo courtesy of wizardkitten
Tom Brookens patrolled third base at Tiger Stadium for Detroit from 1979 to 1988, and was part of the awesome World Series Championship team of 1984. Now, he’s back, but standing outside the lines as the Tigers new third base coach. He, Gene Lamont, and Rafeal Belliard have done the ‘ol coaching shuffle, with the latter taking over Brookens’ first base coaching job, and Lamont being ‘promoted’ to bench coach. After this season ended, management stated that they would be making adjustments to the coaching staff, and this will hopefully solve the ‘third base coach’ problem. Tigers fans have not been pleased with Lamonts’ performance the last few seasons. The most obvious blunder was sending a not-so-speedy Prince Fielder to his doom in a close game of the World Series. He’s been defended by manager Jim Leyland, though, as he called it “an aggressive mistake”. Leyland said the move was not based on performance, but I’m not sure what other criteria this decision would be based on. It’s also been stated that Lamont wanted the change, due to his bad knees and in-ability to dodge foul balls, so maybe that’s it. Brookens been coaching in the Detroit system since 2005. He helped out as hitting coach with the West Michigan Whitecaps for the first half of the season in 2006, before managing short-season Oneonta the rest of the way. He took over as skipper for the ‘Caps in 2007, leading them to a 83-57 record and a Midwest League Championship. He was great with the fans during his time there, and was really nice to the kids when giving autographs. Hopefully this is one more step toward managing in the Majors.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
All in the family is a good way to describe a small percentage of the West Michigan Whitecaps roster this season. Four of the new Whitecaps players are related to a former or current Detroit Tiger! First is catcher Patrick Leyland, who is the son of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland. Patrick was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, and played at short-season Connecticut last year. Manning the second base position in West Michigan will be Colin Kaline, who is the grandson of HOFer Al Kaline. Big shoes to fill for Colin, as Al is one of the greatest Tigers ever, winning the World Series in 1968 and being a 15 time All-Star. Colin also played for the Connecticut Tigers last season. Also patrolling the infield will be Marcus Lemon, son of former Tiger Chet Lemon. Chet was a member of the 1984 World Series Champions during his nine-year stint in Detroit. Marcus was actually drafted by the Texas Rangers, but picked up by Detroit as a Minor League free agent in February. Pitching out of the ‘Cap bullpen this season will be Nick Avila. Nick is the cousin of current Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila, and the nephew of Detroit’s Vice President/Assistant General Manager Al Avila. Like I said, all in the family…
Joining the above mentioned on the 2012 ‘Caps roster, are seven of the Tigers ten 2011 draft picks. These are some decent prospects consisting of first baseman Aaron Westlake, shortstop Brandon Loy, and third baseman Jason King. The Whitecaps have some quality players returning from last season, too, who made a late season run and barely missed out on the playoffs. Outfielder Steven Moya and lefty pitcher Kyle Ryan are two of those returning players, and give the Whitecaps a more experienced ballclub this season. While the 2011 Opening Day roster consisted of six teenagers and twelve players under 20, this year club has just one teenager and five 20-yr-olds. The lone youngster is Danry Vasquez, one of the top 30 Detroit prospect despite having only one professional season under his belt.
The Whitecaps have been a pretty busy crew, though, despite only being in town a few days. Yesterday they held and open practice for the public, and took time to meet the fans and sign autographs. Today, a handful of players like Westlake, Loy, and Moya, participated in the Tigers vs. Mud Hens game in Toledo. They open the season tomarrow in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dragons. It was a nice surprise to see these guys in the lineup on TV, and a chance to see them in action before our game next week. I’m hoping that this is an exciting year in West Michigan!
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
First of all, I’d like to congratulate Armando Galarraga on pitching a perfect game. Second of all, I’d like to state with regret that I didn’t watch the game. Nope, not a single inning. I was actually on my way home from coaching my kids Little League game when I turned the Tigers game on the radio. That one word buzzed my ears and caght my attention: perfect. The volume automatically went up, and the kids got sushed a bit. Thank goodness they were stuffing their faces with Dairy Queen at the time to keep them a little quieter than usual. I was just in time for the 9th inning. One out. Two outs. Yeah! Three outs! Didn’t happen. The announcers were going a bit nuts, and couldn’t believe Galarraga’s luck. When they saw the reply themselves, they couldn’t believe the horrible call. Indian Jason Donald was safe, and Jim Joyce had just cost Galarraga his official perfect game. Not being able to see the play myself, I grapped the cell and made the call to my dad downstate, who I know would be watching. “How bad was it?”, I asked. “It wasn’t even close!”, he stated. Wasn’t even close. When I made it home and finally saw the replay myself, it occured to me that the announceers were right, my dad was right, the Tigers were right, and the 18,000 fans at Comerica were right. Donald was out by ‘a mile’. Joyce was the only human on Earth who thought the guy was safe. Even Donald new he was out, looking at the umpire in disbelief himself. A very classy move, I might add, not celebrating what he wrecked. Galarraga retired the next batter for his one-hit victory, that somehow seemed like a loss. Joyce got an ear-full from the Tiger players and manager Jim Leyland. Leyland, however, took the high road after the game and everyone had settled down a bit. Leyland talked about the human elemet of baseball, but let it be known that it WAS a perfect game. Galarraga knew in his heart, that what he accomplished, too, stating: “I got a perfect game. Maybe it’s not in the book, but I’m going to show my son the CD.” After watching the replay, Joyce even conceded that he blew the call stated that, well: “I blew the damn call.” He even apologized to Armando.
I admit, after the game I as fuming a bit myself. I almost couldn’t wait to get on the blogosphere and rip Joyce. After all, he deserves it, right? How can he think the guy was actually safe, when it was so obvious. If it was a close call, then it would be a different story. You could maybe understand. I also don’t believe in ‘giving’ the pitcher a call on a close play. If he really would have been safe, then so be it. What it comes down to, though, is that everyone can make a mistake. It’s too bad that Joyces blunder cost what would have been the first perfect game in Detroit Tigers’ history. This will be Joyce’s legacy now. I don’t think it’s right that someone changed his Wikipedia page to dub him ‘the worst ump in Major League Baseball’, or that they put him dead on June 2. That’s going a bit too far. I think that part has been removed, though, but the conroversial call section was added. One of the worst things that could come of this, is that fans will be screaming for instant replay for just about everything now. It will surely make things interesting in the baseball world for the next few days, anyway. There-I’ve vented.
Photo courtesy of the AP