Castillo May Move Up Quickly

Since Jesus Castillo has proved to a revelation ever since he's come into professional ball, it should be no great shock that he's doing it again. For on an Ogden team that has three other solid prospects as starting pitchers, Castillo has been right up there- and may be the best.

He's an unusual case- a Mexican native who came to this country to attend high school then junior college. Jesus is from Nogales, the south side of a city that straddles the Arizona-Sonora border.

He was only a 27th round draft choice in 2003, so obscure that even the Dodgers' own media guide lists him as signing as a free agent.

But, no, the Dodgers did draft him out of high school in Tucson, then watched him for a year at Pima Junior College, also in Arizona, before signing him in 2004.

Immediately, though, he began impressing people. Attending the mini-camp that June he looked plenty good enough to begin in rookie ball.

However, there was a problem for, as a Mexican native, he was in this country on a student visa but that was no longer valid after he turned pro. He needed a work visa and none was available. The only thing to do was send him to the Dominican Summer League to play.

Since Spanish is his native language that wasn't a problem. Neither was his performance for he continued to demonstrate his advanced pitching skills, going 4-1 with a 1.90 ERA. Rest assured, there was a visa for him when he reported to spring training in 2005.

There again, he showed precocity. So much so that it was decided to skip rookie ball for him and send him right to Columbus. He began in the hoped-for style for after eight games, he had posted a 2.96 ERA with opponents batting only .205 against him. Clearly, the South Atlantic League was something he well seemed able to conquer.

However, by this time there was an arm ache that didn't go away so he was first shut down, then sent to L.A. for Tommy John surgery. That finished 2005 for him.

This spring began on a rehab basis. Just before the end of extended spring training, he got into some games- enough to show that he was ready for real action.

As usual, the approach with a rehab was cautious. This time, he was sent to Ogden but as the opening day starter. How's he been doing ?

Just great, so far. He lost that opening day decision because he allowed a run while his mound opponent didn't. He was excellent then and has been in the two starts he's made since. In 14 innings, he's held the opposition to a .220 mark. He's fanned 15 while walking only three.

What's most important is that he's already notching 95 on the gun. Put that together with a sharp breaking ball and an intelligent approach and you have quite a pitcher.

Ogden has a pretty good starting staff, for that matter. Josh Wall, Steve Johnson and first-round pick Bryan Morris are all highly regarded while Chales Dasni has the arm to be a force although he's inconsistent. But as noted, Castillo's been as good or better than any of the others.

"I don't expect him to be at Ogden too long," says organizational pitching coordinator Marty Reed. "He'll get up to Columbus or even Vero very soon."

They've been careful with him. He's already been held out of one start and only threw three innings in his latest. At 6-1, 170, he's not impressive physically but when he takes the mound, this 22-year-old stands tall. Big enough that he could move up into the elite class of prospects rapidly.

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