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Cincinnati Reds: Luis Castillo has the confidence of the coaches

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds tosses the baseball in the air while waiting for manager Jim Riggleman #35 to come to the mound during the ninth inning of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 21, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds tosses the baseball in the air while waiting for manager Jim Riggleman #35 to come to the mound during the ninth inning of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 21, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds named Luis Castillo as the team’s Opening Day starter. Though he hasn’t had a great spring, Castillo has the confidence of the Reds’ coaching staff.

I’ve seen a lot of negative comments on social media surrounding the choice of Luis Castillo as the Cincinnati Reds‘ Opening Day starter and I’m not really understanding why. Yeah, he had a bad spring, but he also ended last season with a 3-1 record in September and an ERA of 1.09. Castillo has the most potential of any pitcher on the Reds’ staff outside of perhaps Tyler Mahle and the coaching staff rewarded him with the Opening Day start.

Okay folks, settle down. I’m a bit surprised myself, but it’s just one game. I know, it’s Opening Day in Cincinnati and it’s a big deal, but just hear me out. Luis Castillo’s poor spring is not indicative of his regular season performance.

As mentioned earlier, the last time we saw Castillo on the mound for the Reds in a game that actually counted, the right-hander was dealing. On September 21, 2018, Castillo’s final game of the season, he went 8.1 innings while allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. Oh yeah, he also didn’t allow a single run.

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Furthermore, who were the Reds supposed to choose otherwise? Sonny Gray has had a decent spring, but elbow stiffness limited his time on the field. Gray only has 5 official innings of work this spring and his appearance in yesterday’s minor league game didn’t turn heads. He’s definitely been impressive, no question, but Gray has had limited exposure this spring and last year’s 4.90 ERA was not impressive.

Alex Wood is on the shelf to begin the season and Tyler Mahle is likely to take his spot in the rotation. Wood could’ve been a candidate to start on March 28th against Pittsburgh, but the left-hander whom the Reds acquired from Los Angeles has only pitched one inning of work this spring.

Tyler Mahle, while performing well in Spring Training, was also hit around pretty good at the tail end of last season. In saying that, I expect Mahle to improve by leaps and bounds this coming season and be in the mix for the Opening Day starter in 2020.

Anthony DeSclafani and Tanner Roark have both pitched very well this spring, but neither was considered to be a top-of-the-rotation guy before their Cactus League performances. Both Disco and Roark seem primed for solid seasons, but are better suited for the back of the Reds’ rotation.

Luis Castillo was in the running to be the team’s Opening Day starter from the very start of the offseason. His last month of the 2018 season had fans clamoring for more as we headed into the winter. Castillo is essentially the same player that was last season when he racked up 165 strikeouts in just under 170 innings pitched.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking Spring Training games matter to a player like Castillo. What do I mean by that? Luis Castillo was virtually guaranteed a spot in the rotation. Heck, David Bell announced his starting rotation almost as soon as camp began. There was no pressure for any of the starters to go out and showcase their talents, as they had assurances of their spot on the roster.

Announcing the starting rotation so early in camp allowed those five guys to relax and work on some of the finer points of their craft. The same could be said for Joey Votto. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Votto was 2-for-20 in Cactus League games. Do we really think that Votto is going to hit .100 this season?

Now, for a player like Nick Senzel or Phillip Ervin, they have a lot on the line in Spring Training. Senzel is looking to impress the coaches and prove that he can handle the rigors of center field. Ervin is trying to prove that he can live up to his first round status and be a contributing member of this year’s Cincinnati Reds ball club.

By handing the ball off to Luis Castillo on Opening Day, David Bell and the coaching staff have shown Luis Castillo how much confidence they have in him. Think about it. All offseason we’ve talked about the upgrades to the starting rotation and now the only holdover who had a legitimate shot to make the first start of the season gets the call. Bell spoke about the decision via Reds.com:

"“He’s had a lot of success leading up until now. We like the progress he’s made through Spring Training. We think he’s in a good place to start Opening Day. We trust any of those four guys. It’s just kind of the way it fell.”"

So there you have it, Bell has trust in all four of Roark, Castillo, DeSclafani, and Gray. I’m sure they have trust in Alex Wood as well, he’s just not on the field as of now. Get used to hearing things like this Reds fans, David Bell is going to be doing things a little different than we’re used to.

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Bell also set the rotation after Castillo’s Opening Day start. Sonny Gray will get the ball on Saturday, followed by Tanner Roark, and then Anthony DeSclafani. With Friday being an off day, it’s logical to assume that Castillo will get the ball again on Tuesday, April 2nd against the Brewers. Mahle would then likely start the next game in place of Alex Wood.

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