Alberto Castillo is a testament to perseverance. The left-handed reliever is one of five southpaw non-roster invitees to spring training vying for a spot in the Dodgers bullpen, but Castillo's story is by far the most remarkable. Born in La Habana, Cuba in 1975, Castillo was on the Cuban junior national team at the Junior World Championships in Windsor, Ontario, Canada as an 18-year old in 1993.
With the specter of a mandatory two-year term in the Cuban military looming, Castillo had other ideas, per the Hampton Road (Virginia) Daily Press:
The plan was for Castillo to slip through the lobby of the university dormitory in which his team was staying and be picked up outside at 3 a.m. The Cubans had won the world title the day before, as Castillo had thought would happen, and he was counting on the team's 3-man security detail to be in a celebratory and less-watchful state.
The meeting time arrived and Castillo crept undetected through the lobby. But there was no car outside.
``And then it was the longest five minutes of my life,'' Castillo said with a laugh. But his friend soon arrived, whisking him to a nearby Canadian town where they spent the night. The Cuban team departed later that day and Castillo had pulled off his plan, except that now he was illegally adrift in a foreign country and had to tell his parents what he had done.
``I called them and told them I was not coming back,'' Castillo said, pausing and staring out across the Harbor Park field. ``Everyone cried.''
One year later, Castillo found his way to Miami, and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants, as a first baseman. After hitting a combined .207/.291/.314 in 161 games in Class A, Castillo was transitioned to the mound, where he had marginally better success.
After three years on the mound in the Giants and New York Yankees farm systems (he was traded from San Francisco to New York with Chris SIngleton for Charlie Hayes), never advancing past Class A, Castillo began a nine-year odyssey mostly in the Independent Leagues that saw him play in cities like Schamburg, Newark, Atlantic City, and Camden, and played for a year and a half with a barnstorming team in the Atlantic League in Philadelphia called the Road Warriors.
From 1999 to 2007, the only two years Castillo didn't spend in independent ball were 2005 because of an elbow injury, and 2001 when he was a first baseman for Class A Bakersfield in the Tampa Bay Rays' system. Castillo, then 25, hit .274/.329/.415 with 11 home runs while no doubt discussing the Los Angeles freeway system with teammate Matt Diaz.
In 2008, Castillo got an invitation to spring training to pitch for the Baltimore Orioles, and he finally made his major league debut later that year. In the last four seasons he has been back and forth between Triple A and the majors with both the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks.
In the last four years in Triple A, Castillo had a 2.86 ERA with 51 walks and 161 strikeouts in 160 innings.
In the last four years in MLB, Castillo had a 4.33 ERA with 27 walks and 48 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Castillo made his major league debut three days after his 33rd birthday, on July 8, 2008, but it was 71 days after picking up his first major league win.
Castillo entered his 19th major league game on August 25, 2008, facing just one batter, Jim Thome, with two outs in the bottom of 13th inning. Castillo got Thome to fly out to deep center field, then Ramon Hernandez hit a home run in the next half inning, which held up to give Baltimore, and Castillo, the win. That game was the resumption of a suspended game from April 28, 2008, which was stopped after 11 innings because of rain. To make things even weirder, the game began in Chicago and was resumed in Baltimore, with the Orioles as the road team at home.
Castillo signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to big league camp in spring training.
|2012 Projections - Age 36 Season|
In 123 MLB plate appearances against Castillo, left-handed batters have hit .296/.377/.519, and his 2011 Triple A splits (thanks, Minor League Central) don't show any appreciable difference between righties and lefties. Among the left-handed NRIs in camp, Castillo is behind John Grabow at least, and I think right-hander Jamey Wright has as good a chance as any at the one bullpen spot currently open. I don't think Castillo makes the team, and I don't think he pitches for the Dodgers this season.
What's your prediction for Castillo? Give us your prediction for ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched in the comments, and feel free to add strikeouts or any other predictions you have as well.