Let the Castro watch begin.
Jason Castro reported to his first big league Spring Training camp last year relatively unnoticed, all things considered.
The club’s No. 1 Draft pick in ’08, Castro received the big league invite in ’09 not because he had a remote chance to make the club (he didn’t), but because the team told him if he handled his first professional season as well as expected, he would be welcomed to big league camp the following spring. Castro held up his end of the bargain, so the Astros held up theirs.
The stakes are different — higher, even — this year as Castro prepares for his second Major League Spring Training. Castro’s chances to make the club when camp breaks vary, depending on who you talk to. The cautious approach, which obviously protects the player, is to say simply that Castro will have a very real chance to make the club, but it’s more likely he’ll start the season at Triple-A and then work his way onto the big league roster at some point in 2010.
That’s all well and good and I do take that at face value, to a point. But we also see that the projected catchers this season are Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles, and while they have value and merits in their own right, these are the same two catchers the Astros had last year when they scoured the free agent market for a stop-gap and landed on Pudge Rodriguez.
So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the Astros might outwardly feel that Castro will ease his way into the starting job eventually, but inwardly have every finger and toe crossed that Castro might just hit well, handle the pitching staff with ease and give the Astros no choice but to start him behind the plate on Opening Day.
It’ll be an interesting storyline come Feb. 20, when pitchers and catchers step onto those backfields at Osceola County Stadium for the first time (side note — morning workouts are open to the public and free. Gates will open about five minutes after the players hit the fields for stretching, which Brad Mills says will begin at 9:30 a.m.) I’ve been calling Castro the “future Astro,” but you have to wonder if that future just might arrive sooner than later (like, say, April 5 vs. the Giants).
Castro’s clearly ready for that line of questioning. He wore a hint of a grin when asked about it before the luncheon hosted by the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, and it’s nice to see him take the speculation in stride.
“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, obviously,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. But when I do get there and the time comes, it’s about producing on the field. I’ll get my work in, prepare myself to do that and hopefully I’ll be ready. That’s the main thing I’ll have my mind on — just playing.”
In the meantime, it was nice catching up with Castro on the very last day of the nine-day, 15-city, umpteen-mile caravan jaunt that has now drawn to a close. The traveling party — Larry Dierker, Milo Hamilton, Castro and Hunter Pence — visited southeastern Texas, where they visited Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, greeted fans associated with the Double-A Hooks and mingled with kids from the Boys & Girls Club in Victoria.
Enjoy the images, including a few from Wednesday’s trip to the Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Driscoll Children’s Hospital
Castro chats with Milo Hamilton during the Corpus Christi luncheon presentation.
Castro, Pence sign autographs in Corpus.
Pence took the young fans a bit off guard with his constant barrage of questions: “Did you have a good day at school today? Did you learn anything? How was recess?” This whole visit was a surprise for the kids at the Boys & Girls Club, so needless to say, most answers were in the form of wide-eyed, gaping nods.
Most of the kids loosened up by the end of the visit, however.
One day earlier, another caravan traveling party wrapped up its three-day jaunt through Central Texas with a visit with soldiers at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. Most of the patients there have lost limbs — mostly legs. Our guys didn’t know what to expect when they entered the facility, but it took no time at all before the conversations flowed freely. It was one of the few stops we made that when it was time to leave, no one wanted to.
Below: Matt Lindstrom
Group shot with Bagwell
I love this one…Bagwell was asking so many questions that finally the young man just took off the prosthetic leg and handed it to him.
One last group shot before we left.