Luis Castillo returns from IL in Reds win over Brewers

CINCINNATI — The Reds, largely because of their rotation, dug themselves into a very deep hole during the first month of the season. If any starting pitcher has the flashlight and shovel to help them out, it’s likely to be ace Luis Castillo. His long-awaited debut of the season came Monday against the Brewers.

“It felt great. We are back,” Castillo said through translator Jorge Merlos.

“It was unbelievable,” Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer said. “I think Luis is a great competitor, but he competes in a different way in that he just comes out very relaxed and keeps things relaxed: he laughs at the guys that hit his pitches. It’s a breath of fresh air to see him on the mound. I am glad to see that he is healthy.”

Buoyed by a five-run fifth inning that included a three-run homer by Brandon Drury and Farmer adding a three-run homer in the seventh inning, the 6-23 Reds posted consecutive wins for the first time this season and have won three of their last four games.

Activated from the disabled list, Castillo lasted 4 2/3 innings and 87 pitches, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks and striking out five. His righty was delayed by a right shoulder injury at the start of spring training in March and made three rehab starts before being declared ready.

Cincinnati’s rotation had a major league-worst 8.54 ERA without Castillo and has yet to produce a quality start or even complete six innings.

“He gave us a good start to the game to give us a chance to be like that — he stabilized the game and he can absolutely stabilize a rotation, we’ve seen that for a long time,” Reds manager David Bell said. saying. “It looked good. It’s almost like it’s his last start in spring training, so he got a little tired at the end, but he gave us a great start to the game.”

Opening strong, Castillo gave up a leadoff single to Kolten Wong in the first, but faced the minimum three innings. Eight of his first nine batters saw strikes on the first pitch, and he had three strikeouts during that span, all on his powerful changeup.

“The first two innings were really solid, perfectly to be honest,” Castillo said of his changeup. “In the fourth inning, he was a little off, but we were able to make adjustments to get out of that inning.”

Wong’s opening walk and Christian Yelich’s one-out walk on four pitches immediately pursued Castillo in the fourth. Rowdy Tellez followed with a two-run double off the wall in left center that put the Brewers ahead, 2-1.

Omar Narvaez led off the Brewers’ fifth inning by hitting a 3-2 changeup for a home run to right-center field. Castillo walked Jace Peterson on four pitches and had two out when Willy Adames grounded a ball that Farmer kicked in error. Bell lifted Castillo for Luis Cessa, who came out of the inning before the Reds pounced on Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff in the bottom of the inning.

“I wish I hadn’t made that mistake to allow him to finish the inning. But things happen, and he looked great tonight,” said Farmer, whose home run in the seventh snapped a 34-0 streak that was the longest hitless streak by a Reds position player since Bobby Adams in 1954.

The Reds will need Castillo to be more like he was in the second half of last season than he started it. In his first 11 starts of 2021, he went 1-8 with a 7.22 ERA before orchestrating a remarkable turnaround with a 2.73 ERA in his last 22 starts.

According to Statcast, Castillo’s sinker averaged 95 mph on Monday and his four-seam fastball 94.6 mph, which was down from the 97.2 mph he averaged last season. His changeup, used 27 times against Milwaukee, averaged 85.9 mph. He took seven puffs out of 13 swing attempts.

“You’re talking about Luis Castillo, he’s been a very good pitcher,” Narvaez said. “I have faced him a lot. I know how they play their pitches. fast ball. He was good, for the most part. Being his first outing, it was good for him. We took a very good approach to him and unfortunately they got the win today.”

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