A Promising Pitcher You Never Heard Of

In the Dodger media guide minor league section there are three players named Castillo listed, all pitchers. There's Arismendy, a Dominican and Albenis, a Panamanian , both righthanders, along with Jorge, a Mexican lefthander. Curiously, though, the pitcher with that last name who looks as the most promsing can't be found at all. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

That's something of a shame because Jesus Castillo has the appearance of one that you'd want to look up. So, if you're wondering, here's the details . He's a Mexican native but one who came to this country to attend high school in Tucson, Ariz., for "both the education and baseball, " as he puts. Since he was in school here, he was eligible for the draft when he graduated in 2003 so the Dodgers selected him down in the 27th round on the recommendation of scout Brian Stephenson (whom you might remember as a righthander on the 40-man roster a few years ago and whose dad Jerry did pitch briefly for L.A, in 1970.)

Like a number of kids picked down in that area, Jesus was judged not quite ready for pro ball so he stayed in Arizona to attend junior college for a year, then was signed as a draft-and-follow last June. When he turned professional, though, he lost his student visa . thereby creating a problem.

Minor league players from other nations come to this country on work visas. For those they compete with every other foreigner who works here without a green card, whether he (or she) wears a collar that is white or blue. Since there are far more who desire such a ticket of admission than the government has available, the quota is filled early in the year. Thus, there was none for Castillo.

Problem solved by sending him to the Dominican Summer League to pitch. There he performed in exemplary fashion , with a 4-1 record and the figure "190 " prominent for he chalked up a 1.90 ERA while opposing batters hit only a meager .190 against him.

He would have come back to this country to pitch as a pro last fal lbut, like a lot of others, had that cancelled when hurricanes Frances and Jeanne wiped out the Instructional League.l. However, the Dodgers certainly made sure his name was on the list for a visa this spring.

Castillo proceeded to wow the coaches with a fast ball that reached into the 90's , solid breaking stuff and an advanced changeup. What was even more inpressive was his command of those pitches. So much so, that it was adjudged that he could skip the normal rookie leagues and go right up to Columbus in the low A South Atlantic League.

Jesus wasn't scheduled to be in the rotation in the beginning and wound up coming in for opening day starter Scott Elbert . However, when Elbert went out with a pulled muscle in his side, he was thrust in there and has made two qualitry starts since.

Right now, he's 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA with 21 strikeouts as opposed to only seven walks in 18 innings. SAL batters are hitting only .212 against him.

It would appear that he can handle batters at this level with the same ease he demonstrated last summer. He 's not big at 6-1, 178 but he's solidly put together . He'll be 21 on May 31, a player with a seeming strong upside, one you'll be noticing in the future. One Dodger official ttermed him, " The one I think will be our pleasant surprise of the season." " When asked about him, organizational pitching coordinator Rick Honeycutt replied, "What's not to like ? He's been impressive. "

I'll bet he even makes the media guide next time around.