By Justin Adkins:
At first blush, the Phillies signing of Luis Castillo was exceptionally cringe-worthy, with many fans remembering only the guy who was a bumbling mess with the Mets. Worse, it also truly hammered home the fact that Chase Utley really is out, likely for a while.
That hurts just to type, let alone think about.
And while no one could come close to replacing Chase, either on the field, at the plate, or in the locker room, signing Castillo seemed like a pointless exercise in futility. The guy is clearly a shell of his former self, and it seems like a waste of time to even suit him up.
Luckily Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear that this isn’t going to be an long-term experiment.
“He’s not going to the minor leagues,” Amaro said. “He’ll either make our club or be released.”
So that’s great news. Castillo, if he has anything left, has nine days to show it. If not, he’s gone. The only real drawback is that the other candidates to make the team with Utley out — Josh Barfield, Michael Martinez, Pete Orr, and Delwyn Young — will see less time on the field to prove they belong.
“[Castillo’s] kind of in the same boat as the other guys who are in our camp as non-roster invitees, just a bigger name,” Amaro said. “He stays here if we feel he’s a guy who can make our club.
“He’s a veteran guy who has had some success. He’s probably not the same player he was several years ago. But he can do some things on the bases. He takes pitches, he can extend the inning offensively, and he’s always been a good defender. There are some questions about his range and how he’s moving. We’re going to give ourselves a chance to find out.”
None of the above-mentioned players are likely to see significant time other than on the bench, regardless of what happens with Castillo. Wilson Valdez is still the favorite to start the season as the everyday second baseman, but if the 35 year-old Castillo can show he has anything left, the Phillies could move Valdez back to the bench, where he would be able to fill in at second, short, third, or even the outfield. He can’t hit but his defense is a plus at any postion.
“We’re going to see if [Castillo] can play second base, assess it and see if he can help us,” Amaro said. “If he can help us – great. If not, we’ll probably go with what we’ve got in camp.”
“The guys we have in camp have all played well. Anytime we can bring in a low-risk guy with a track record, it gives us some depth and a chance to make a decision.”
Ultimately, if Castillo shows anything his presence can only help, and having him wouldn’t hurt the team payroll-wise either, as he will make only the league minimum of $414,000 if he makes the team. Ipf he craps the bed over the next week or so leading up to the season opener, he can be let go with no further commitment.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel summed it up best in usual Charlie-style.
“We’ll see what he’s got.”
No matter what Castillo has, no one will be forgetting Chase Utley, but with the Four Horsemen the Phillies only need a serviceable stopgap. If that ends up being Castillo, so be it.
UPDATE: Castillo has been scratched from today’s lineup. Apparently he didn’t arrive to the Phillies camp in time. Not only that, but the lineup for Wednesday’s game has been posted as well — with no Castillo. So what was once a nine-game tryout now stands at seven. Hopefully John Doe isn’t delivering boxes to Bright House Field.
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