Castillo to head to his home away from home

Springfield pitcher Richard Castillo is set to compete in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier Pool.

Springfield Cardinals pitcher Richard Castillo is undoubtedly focusing on his current team's immediate challenge – to win one of the last three games of the Texas League Championship at Frisco. That would give the Double-A Cardinals their first-ever league title.

Shortly thereafter, once the playoffs conclude, the 22-year-old will be hopping a flight. However, unlike most of his teammates, Castillo will not be returning home, in his case, to Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

Instead, the right-hander will be heading to a location almost as familiar as home – Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. Castillo will not be reporting to the Cardinals instructional league camp going on there, but instead he be joining the roster of Team Spain.

Roger Dean will be hosting one of four World Baseball Classic Qualifier Pools. France, Israel, Spain and South Africa will be competing for the right to represent their nation in the 2013 World Baseball Classic next March.

Games begin at RDS on Wednesday, September 19 and will conclude on Sunday, September 23 with the Pool Final game, scheduled to be televised by MLB Network. A total of six games - one per evening along with a Friday matinee - will be held in the double-elimination tourney.

With family roots in Spain, Castillo has been called upon to represent Spain before. He was made an offer to compete for the nation in the World Cup in September 2009 as well.

RDS is a most comfortable location for Castillo. In fact, it can be called his home away from home. Including 2012, he has played for the A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals in all five of his US-based seasons as a professional. In addition, he has participated in spring training in the Cardinals' Florida location each March.

This season, Castillo moved up to Double-A Springfield for the second consecutive year, but unlike in 2011, this time he stuck. Though he split the month of May between Palm Beach and Springfield, Castillo was awarded The Cardinal Nation Pitcher of the Month award.

As the season drew to a close, Castillo lost his rotation spot and roster spot due to a finger injury. He was placed on the disabled list on August 28, retroactive to August 25. The right-hander missed the first round of the post-season before being activated on September 11.

Castillo posted had a 7-5 record with a 3.76 ERA in 19 starts since his promotion from Palm Beach. He has fanned 65 and walked 32 in 110 innings with Springfield.

Before stalling a bit the last couple of years, Castillo held down rankings of 15 and 18 in The Cardinal Nation's annual top 40 prospect lists in 2009 and 2010, respectively. He initially signed with St. Louis in December 2007 at the age of 18.

Other WBC qualifying action

This fall, three other locations will be holding Qualifier Pools along with Jupiter. They are Germany – hosting the Czech Republic, Canada and the UK; Taiwan – against New Zealand, Philippines and Thailand; and in November, Panama will face Brazil, Colombia and Nicaragua.

The 16 teams competing in the Qualifier Pools include 12 new teams along with the four winless World Baseball Classic countries from 2009 - Canada, Chinese Taipei, Panama and South Africa.

The four Pool winners will join the 12 countries that have received automatic invitations to the 2013 WBC based on their performance in the second WBC in 2009. The 12 are Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.

In March, the WBC first round will be held at four locations yet to be announced. The second round will be held at the new Marlins Park in Miami and the championship round in San Francisco.

Familiar faces

Along with Castillo, another familiar name is set to participate in the WBC qualifier in Jupiter. Castillo's former battery-mate, catcher Charlie Cutler, will be competing for manager Brad Ausmus' Team Israel. Cutler left the Cardinals when he was selected by the Pirates in last December's Rule 5 Draft. He competed at Double-A Altoona this summer. Former Cardinals righty David Kopp, now in Detroit's system, is also on Israel's roster.

Three others with St. Louis ties are scheduled to be in uniform in Germany. Former Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker is the hitting coach for Team Canada, with released Memphis lefty R.J. Swindle among the team's relievers. Team Germany's roster includes an outfielder who retired from Springfield mid-summer, German-born Jake Shaffer.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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