WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Starlin Castro came to Nationals camp with a revamped swing that results in more balls pulled in the air and fewer balls on the ground, a swing that produced big numbers late last season with the Marlins. But the first live pitcher he had to face here was immune to such tweaks.
Castro groaned Wednesday when he found out he was hitting against Max Scherzer, a longtime nemesis when facing him as an opponent. And sure enough, there wasn’t much contact to speak of when the two squared off in live batting practice.
Not to worry, because Castro was back at the plate facing a different pitcher (Patrick Corbin) today. And the ensuing results showed a glimpse of how potent that new swing can be.
Castro hit several lasers off Corbin, including one ball that cleared the fence in left field. No, it doesn’t count. And no, you shouldn’t read much into it. But it was some tangible evidence of what the Nationals believe they have in their new second baseman.
“His bat-to-ball skills are really, really good,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I like his swing right now. He understands what he wants to do. And what he’s trying to do is keep the ball off the ground.”
Castro wasn’t the only hitter to make solid contact off Corbin today. Trea Turner laced what would’ve been a double to right-center field, prompting Kurt Suzuki to proclaim “three-hole hitter!” to the leadoff man who may get a chance to bat third this season.
We don’t know yet how all of those starters will line up for the first week of exhibition play, but Scherzer has been named the starter for Saturday night’s Grapefruit League opener against the Astros. He’ll be going up against 22-year-old prospect Cristian Javier, Houston manager Dusty Baker revealed this morning.
That game has been earmarked on the schedule for weeks now, as high-profile a game as there can be in late February. Martinez was asked today what he expects when the two teams take the field.
“I’m hoping that on our side - I can’t tell you about the Houston Astros and what they’re going to do - but for us, we act professional,” Martinez said. “We go about our business. And we get ready for the season.”
Reading between the lines: There will be no retaliation toward the Astros. Not that it’s Scherzer style to do such things. He’s more of a strike-out-the-side-and-strut-off-the-mound kind of guy.