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Dodgers spring training 2013: Ramon Castro healthy, vying for backup spot

The veteran catcher is healthy again after missing all of 2012 after right hand surgery, and is trying to win a spot as the backup backstop with the Dodgers.

For what it's worth, Ramon Castro has the best and most perpetual 5 o'clock shadow on the club.
For what it's worth, Ramon Castro has the best and most perpetual 5 o'clock shadow on the club.

Ramon Castro is one of four catchers vying for the backup catcher job on the Dodgers this spring, but the veteran is more happy that he is healthy.

Castro turns 37 on Mar. 1, and though he has played in parts of 13 big league seasons he missed all of 2012 after surgery on his right hand. Castro broke his hand while catching a pitch in the eighth inning on July 9, 2011, when a pitch smashed into his knuckle. He had four pins placed in his hand and missed the rest of 2011 and all of 2012.

Castro did play winter ball in Puerto Rico and played in the Caribbean Series as well. In 22 combined games he hit .333/.381/.628 with six home runs.

"I feel great," Castro said Friday. "So far, so good."

In 2011, Castro hit .235/.307/.456 in 23 games with the White Sox before breaking his hand. In his career, Castro has hit .237/.310/.424 with 67 home runs in 567 career games.

The pitch that broke Castro's hand was thrown by Mark Buehrle, who was a teammate of Castro for 2½ seasons in Chicago. It was Castro who caught Buehrle's perfect game, on July 23, 2009, a game that still resonates today.

"It was the best experience I have ever had in my life, catching wise. I love it," Castro said. "It was unbelievable, I can't even explain the way I felt that day. I still remember it like it's today. It was great."

Castro's competition was reduced by one on Thursday, when Eliezer Alfonzo was moved to minor league camp as Alfonzo still hasn't reported to Camelback Ranch. Castro is battling fellow non-roster catchers Jesus Flores and Ilkin Castillo for the backup job, along with Tim Federowicz. With over 10 years of major league service time, Castro by far the most experienced backstop in camp, something he hopes to use to his advantage.

"I'm a veteran guy. I always trust in my ability to do the job. I'm going to try to do my best to help the team win some games," Castro said. "Every time they give me a chance to play, I'm going to take advantage of that."

Manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday that he didn't see the time before games started as a competition among the catchers, especially given the workload with 28 pitchers in camp.

"We're just working right now. We haven't got into games. We kind of know all these guys, we're starting to see what they can do, get them in shape," Mattingly said. "I don't know that we've started the competition yet."

That competition starts on Saturday, when the Dodgers open their Cactus League schedule against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

Castro had offers from other clubs, but said he chose the Dodgers in part because of his friendship with fellow Puerto Rican and Dodgers minor league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves.

"I think it's a great chance, a great team, great management. We'll see what happens," Castro said.