Orioles notes: Command remains a challenge for Miguel Castro as consistency eludes him

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Miguel Castro made a quick but frustrating appearance out of the Orioles bullpen in Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the New York Mets, allowing a leadoff triple and an infield single in the ninth inning before he committed an error and was lifted from the game.

For a pitcher who the Orioles hold in such high regard, it’s been a rough stretch lately for Castro, who has allowed a run in five of his six starts this month. His ERA has jumped from 3.21 on Aug. 1 to 3.86 after Tuesday’s outing.

“His command has been a challenge for him more recently,” manager Buck Showalter said.

His high walk rate — Castro’s 5.85 walks per nine innings are third most among pitchers with at least 60 innings — is the only measurable difference between his 2017 breakout with the Orioles and his 2018 season.

It’s not as if this season has been bad — his 3.86 ERA is up slightly from last year’s 3.53 — but he has a higher strikeout rate, a lower home run rate, a 50 percent ground-ball rate and an identical strand rate. It’s mostly just been a consistency issue.

He’s also created uncomfortable situations for himself by allowing 18 hits and nine walks in 60 plate appearances against him to begin an inning, meaning nearly half of the batters he faces reach base to begin the frame.

That’s hurt more in his high-leverage short relief appearances, such as Tuesday night’s, than some of his long relief outings, when he gets the time to work himself through his struggles and get a groove going. Finding that groove of late has been hard as Castro works deep into what’s set to be his first full major league season.

Showalter said he, pitching coach Roger McDowell and bullpen coach Alan Mills are closely monitoring their pitchers’ workloads from past years. But considering Castro pitched a league-high 50 relief innings after the All-Star break last season and tired down the stretch, the Orioles seem to be caught between letting him get into a groove and find his delivery again and preventing overuse.

“You hear a lot of people say, ‘This guy’s got a rubber arm, he can pitch every day,’ ” Castro said. “Then all of a sudden, he can’t. There’s some guys that withstand it, but this guy is 23 years old. When he’s pitched 2 1/3 and had three ups, thrown 45 pitches, I’m not going to pitch him the next day or probably the next day. Sometimes young players like that, they’re always going to say, ‘Yeah, I feel great.’ I’d love to get him out there on a consistent basis if the game would allow it, and if he would allow it. The walks have really been a challenge for him.”

Report on Sisco

Showalter didn’t have much to say about what he’s hearing about one-time top prospect Chance Sisco at Triple-A Norfolk, other than he’s read good things in the postgame reports about Sisco’s defense from manager Ron Johnson.

“RJ really was talking about how well he caught last night,” Showalter said. “It seems like he’s doing well. He’s not, probably, hitting for pure average the way that he’d like to, but he seems to be catching well.”

Sisco, 23, had two hits in one half of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Pawtucket to give him his first multihit game since July 31. He’s batting .217 with a .638 OPS in 24 games for the Tides and has allowed 16 stolen bases in 20 tries since he was optioned to Norfolk on July 14.

Around the horn

Outfielder Adam Jones received his sixth consecutive Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association on the field before Wednesday’s game from Mike Bordick. … Right-hander Luis Ortiz allowed one earned run on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts in Norfolk’s win Wednesday over Pawtucket. Acquired in the July 31 trade for Jonathan Schoop from the Milwaukee Brewers, Ortiz has a 2.81 ERA in three starts for the Tides.

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