The Phillies Cut Luis Castillo; What They Didn't Say, Though
When the Phillies grew all concerned about Chase Utley's season, they inked the recently released Castillo to a minor-league deal. The fans thought that Utley's season (and future) might be in doubt. After all, Castillo is a seasoned second baseman. Apparently, the team might not have been confident starting journeyman Wilson Valdez at second (even though he filled in admirably for Jimmy Rollins last season when he was hurt), or giving significant playing time to Rule 5 draftee Michael Martinez and veteran non-roster invitees Delwyn Young and Pete Orr.
That was about 10 days ago. But a funny thing happened, or a few funny things did. First, Castillo didn't bust his rear end to get to Phillies' camp, showing up a day later than he should have and then offered a lame excuse. Second, he played matador on a ground ball/throw combination in an exhibition game that might be a nuance to many but not to Phillies' observers. Put differently, he showed that he's a bit of a diva/disaffected veteran who might have become used to a culture of losing in New York. As Jayson Stark of ESPN.com said on The Mike Missanelli Show on Philadelphia talk radio today, "he just isn't their type of guy."
That's interesting and not surprising to hear, that chemistry means a lot to the Phillies and that they won't consider adding even one player with a questionable attitude for fear that he'll infect the rest of the team. That's the price an excellent team pays to win, even if it means passing -- on the cheap -- on a veteran second sacker who might have helped the team. So, they canned Castillo today.
Stark also had another interesting thing to say (or two or three). He offered that the Phillies must be more sanguine about Utley's return than they were a week ago. So, instead of having Utley out until the All-Star break, he's sensing Utley could be back in May. Second, he observed that the team likes Delwyn Young and Pete Orr, even if it might not be able to keep both. Third, Michael Martinez will make the team -- among other reasons, Charlie Manuel loves him.
The genius/beauty of the Phillies last year was their ability time after time to find spare parts to fill in until the big names returned. The Achilles' heel turned out to be that the big names weren't fully recovered and had trouble hitting to their capabilities afterwards. That said, the Phillies have had a knack to surface a Valdez, Dane Sardinha and others to help.
Opening Day is just around the corner. The baseball gods have dealt the Phillies four aces. It will be interesting to watch how they play the hand and whether it will prove to be enough.