SARASOTA, Fla. — Earlier this spring, new Orioles catcher Welington Castillo expressed how torn he was about leaving his team early to participate in the World Baseball Classic. He made a commitment to play for the Dominican Republic before he was unexpectedly non-tendered and became a free agent, so he didn't anticipate a spring training of having to get accustomed to a new team and pitching staff. Faced with a difficult decision, Castillo honored his word and committed to play in the WBC.
The result has been a crash course in catching and learning his staff. But as Castillo played in his final Grapefruit League game before joining the Dominican team, he said he believed he's seen as much pitching as he could in the six games he caught.
"Yeah, I got enough work with the pitchers, so I have a really good idea about what those guys have," Castillo said. "It would be better if I stayed here and spent more times with them, but I feel like I'm in good shape with them."
Castillo hit an RBI double in the Orioles 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday at Ed Smith Stadium and is 5-for-15 (a .333 batting average) with three doubles this spring. But he realizes his emphasis must be on progressing defensively.
"It's a little sad … to leave the camp with a new team and a new pitching staff, but I'm excited to go there and represent my country and play for the Dominican," Castillo said. "I'm going to do my best to do my work and get better. Everything I've learned here and what J.R. [catching coach John Russell] has been teaching me and telling me about my catching skills I'm going to continue to do well there, and just go out there and compete and have a good experience.
Showalter gets look at Smith up top: For the second time this spring, manager Buck Showalter used right fielder Seth Smith in the leadoff spot, and despite remaining hitless in Grapefruit League play, Smith showed his ability to get on base.
Smith isn't a prototypical leadoff man — and he's only done it in the past when there has been no other clear option — but his career .344 on-base percentage was one of the main reasons the Orioles acquired him in an offseason trade with the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
On Sunday, Smith went 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout. He is currently 0-for-9 in Grapefruit League play but has drawn three walks to go with three strikeouts.
"I don't care where he takes them — those are good at-bats," Showalter said. "Patient. Seth, I think he'll be a little later in the spring, just from looking at some of the background and watching him, I think he's a little bit more of a later-in-the-spring guy. But he's always going to be patient at the plate, regardless of where he hits in the order."
When Smith batted leadoff last Monday, he also reached base, drawing a walk in two plate apperances.
Left fielder Hyun Soo Kim has batted leadoff in most spring training games, with outfielder Joey Rickard also seeing time atop the order in Grapefruit League play.
Familiar looks: Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who played in his last game before leaving the club for the WBC on Sunday, will be back at Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday, although it will be in an opposing uniform.
The Dominican WBC team will play an exhibition game against the Orioles on Tuesday, so for the first time, Machado will be an Orioles opponent.
Machado will face Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman on Tuesday, and Machado joked that he didn't know much about Gausman.
"I'm going to have to look at the scouting reports to see what he throws," Machado said. "It's a little different when you're behind him. It will be fun, fun to come out here and play in front of the crowd in a different jersey across the way, as a visiting team instead of putting on the home uniform. It will be pretty interesting and fun."
Around the horn: LHP Zach Britton [side muscle stiffness] is scheduled to throw off a half mound Monday and then likely move to a full mound Wednesday before getting into Grapefruit League games. … SS J.J. Hardy has resumed baseball activities, Showalter said. … RHP Chris Tillman's bullpen session on Sunday went well, and he will likely next throw one more before throwing a live batting practice session. … RHP Mychal Givens will likely make his final appearance before the WBC — he is pitching for Team USA —on Monday on the road against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. … The Orioles' minor league deal with RHP Steve Johnson, a St. Paul's product, became official. He will report to minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park.
Sun staff writer Jon Meoli contributed this report.