Tigers send down Castellanos, seven others
No matter how well Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos hit in camp, he was headed to Triple-A Toledo. The way he hit, though, he shouldn’t be there for long.
The expected move came Tuesday, with Castellanos as one of eight cuts from the Tigers’ spring roster. As a non-roster invitee, he was sent to minor-league camp along with reliever Trevor Bell, infielder Argenis Diaz and outfielder Tyler Collins.
Among those on the 40-man roster, second base prospect Hernan Perez was optioned to Double-A Erie. Catcher Bryan Holaday, right-hander Jose Ortega and left-hander Duane Below were optioned to Toledo. The moves trim the Tigers camp roster to 37 players with 13 days left until they open the season at Minnesota.
None of the moves was a surprise — not even Castellanos, despite his spring tear. The 21-year-old went 9-for-25 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs this spring, his first with the big-league club. However, it would’ve taken an incredible set of circumstance to turn that into a spot on Opening Day roster.
“I did well, and they told me I made a good impression,” Castellanos said Tuesday morning on his way out.
Though Castellanos came in with an opportunity to compete for a Major League job, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski made it clear before camp that they wouldn’t take Castellanos or fellow outfield prospect Avisail Garcia north with them just to serve as a bench player. They’d have to get enough playing time to justify the move and not hinder their development.
That was a particular concern for Castellanos, who converted from third base to right field last summer and then shifted over to left in the fall. With Andy Dirks ticketed for the bulk of the playing time in left, and the Tigers’ need becoming more clear as a right-handed hitter to mix in with Dirks rather than platoon, the numbers didn’t fit.
“I was realistic about it, just knowing this is an incredibly difficult team to make, just because the amount of good players on it,” Castellanos said. “Sure, just with me performing well and everything, maybe they would reconsider. But still, I thought it was a long shot regardless.”
One of the instructions the Tigers gave Castellanos, he said, was that they want him to feel as comfortable in the outfield as he does in the batters box. He’ll serve as the regular left fielder with the Mud Hens as he begins his third professional season at age 21.
The Tigers have turned to Toledo early in the season for outfield help in three of the past five seasons. Matt Joyce got the call just a month into the 2008 season, while Brennan Boesch turned a torrid spring into a shot at the Majors by the end of April in 2010 as an injury replacement. Castellanos has put himself in a position to do the same.
One level below him will be Collins, who made a similarly strong impression in his first Major League camp. The 22-year-old went 10-for-29 with two doubles, two triples, a home run and five RBIs.
Of the pitchers, Below came to camp with the best chance at making the 25-man roster, having opened last season in Detroit. The Tigers have a need for both a long reliever and a second left-hander, and Below fits the profile for both.
However, the 27-year-old had by far his worst spring of his three seasons in Major League camp, allowing 11 runs on 14 hits in just eight innings. He’ll most likely rejoin the rotation at Toledo for a third season.