A closer look at Castro

Among the assortment of bullpen decisions for the Orioles is what to do about Miguel Castro.

The arm can be electric, the outages frustrating and troublesome.

At various junctures of Castro’s tenure with the Orioles, he’s been viewed as a possible starter, middle reliever and closer leading up to the new regime’s commitment to keep him in the bullpen without a defined role.

Does anyone really have one beyond high-leverage options?

And speaking of options, Castro ran out of them and can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. Otherwise, he likely would have been working through his struggles at Triple-A Norfolk.

Castro-Delivers-Back-White-Sidebar.jpgCastro is eligible for arbitration after making $569,000 this season, and MLBTradeRumors.com projects his pending raise to leave his salary at $1.2 million. It’s beginning to reach steep territory for a club that is, shall we say, careful with its spending.

The bullpen already includes a $3.2 million projection for Mychal Givens and $1.1 million for left-hander Richard Bleier. The Orioles are expected to search the market for veteran relievers who could give manager Brandon Hyde more trustworthy choices, but at an affordable rate, of course.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are likely to continue their work on Castro. Try to sharpen his command and make him more consistent, which starts with a repeatable delivery.

Castro had a career-high 65 appearances this year, one fewer than team-leader Paul Fry, and his ERA climbed from 3.96 to 4.66 while his innings fell from 86 1/3 to 73 1/3 - 10th-most in the American League. His strikeouts per nine innings increased from 5.9 to 8.7, but he averaged five walks.

There was an impressive stretch late in the season, with Castro going 10 outings in a row and 14 of his last 16 without surrendering a run. His ERA shrank to 4.14 before he allowed five earned runs and six total with two walks in two-thirds of an inning on Sept. 18 against the Blue Jays.

The season offered one more chance for Castro on Sept. 23, when he tossed a scoreless inning in Toronto. He didn’t warm up, let alone pitch, during the final series in Boston.

The meltdowns tended to be epic and stayed with you. There were back-to-back appearances against the Athletics and Yankees that produced a combined seven runs and seven hits allowed over 3 1/3 innings. The three runs with two walks in one-third of an inning in Cleveland. The back-to-back appearances against the Blue Jays and Red Sox with four earned runs (five total) allowed in two innings.

It didn’t get any worse than the April 22 game against the White Sox at Camden Yards. Four runs and five hits with two walks and three wild pitches in only two-thirds of an inning in a 12-2 loss.

These are the moments when Castro becomes a thrower, or slinger, instead of a pitcher. Loses his arm slot and effectiveness. Confidence in using him erodes.

And then he starts dominating hitters again, with his fastball sitting at 97-98 mph and usage of his slider increasing over the last two months.

Castro held right-handed hitters to a .218 average this season. He registered a 3.72 ERA with a .183 average against in 29 appearances after the All-Star break and allowed only three of 17 inherited runners to score. He permitted 17 of 30 in the first half.

It’s like watching two different pitchers.

Hyde is learning how to use his bullpen. He’d prefer to limit Givens to one inning. He knows that Castro posted a 0.89 ERA in 20 1/3 innings on three or more days of rest.

A manager finds it harder to function when he’s handcuffed. He can’t always abide by those numbers.

Today’s question: What would you do with Castro?

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