Ryan Castellani Takes A Long Road To MLB Debut
Ryan Castellani threw four hitless innings in his major league debut, savoring that start on Aug. 8 and recalling the journey leading to it.
“Getting to this point is definitely kind of a long road,” he said. “It’s been six years.”
The Rockies drafted the 6-foot-4, 218-pound righthander in the second round in 2014 out of Brophy College Prep in Phoenix. It’s five miles from Chase Field, where the 24-year-old won his first big league game on Aug. 24, helping the Rockies end a seven-game losing streak by limiting the D-backs to two runs in six innings,
“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Castellani, who recorded a 3.54 ERA through his first four starts, showing a four-pitch mix and notable poise.
After Castellani went 9-12, 4.81 at Double-A Hartford in 2017, he returned there the following year but regressed, putting up a 5.49 ERA as his low three-quarters arm slot gradually crept up.
Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said Castellani unwittingly altered his arm slot while trying to improve command of his fastball, “and it just got everything else out of whack.”
Through a collaborative effort, the problem was detected. Castellani went to the Arizona Fall League in 2018 and returned to his natural arm slot. He began 2019 at Triple-A Albuquerque, but bone chips in his elbow necessitated surgery after he ran up a 8.31 ERA in 10 starts. He again pitched in the AFL, going 1-0, 2.16 in five starts.
Castellani sits 93-94 mph with a four-seam fastball that he said “has a ton of horizontal movement.” His 77-78 mph curveball is the pitch he commands best.
Castellani’s changeup was a point of emphasis in the AFL last year and is a mid-80s offering that has improved as the righthander regained his natural arm slot. His 87-88 mph slider is effective and usable and will be a better weapon as Castellani becomes more adept at where to start it so it finishes in the desired location.
“He’s got the talent," Wilson said. "He’s always had a calmness to how he pitches, but now he’s combining that with confidence and it’s really paid off.”
— Aaron Schunk has started to play second base at the alternate training site in addition to third base, his position at Georgia and at short-season Bowie, where he hit .306/.370/.503 with six homers and 23 RBIs in 46 games after the Rockies drafted him in the second round in 2019.
Wilson said in a normal minor league campaign, Schunk, 23, would have been introduced to second base this year in his first full pro season, but it was done earlier at the alternate training site simply due to manpower needs when organizing intrasquad games.
— Bret Boswell has been impressive on both sides of the ball at the alternate training site. He is primarily playing center field and left field with a little bit of time in right and at second base, his original position. Drafted in the eighth round out of Texas in 2017, Boswell, 25, began playing center field last year at Double-A Hartford.
“It’s gotten to the point, particularly in center field, where he’s starting to make it look pretty easy,” Wilson said. “And offensively, he’s hitting the ball all over the place with power.”
Coming off a poor 2019 season where he hit .219/.290/.397 with 15 homers and 39 RBIs in 106 games, Boswell’s solid play at the alternate site comes after he did very well in spring training and in summer camp.
— Lefthander Ben Bowden (lower back strain), whom the Rockies drafted from Vanderbilt in the second round in 2016, has started throwing in intrasquad games at the alternate training site. The 25-year-old reliever was injured early in the original spring training after going a combined 1-3, 3.48 last year between Double-A and Triple-A.