Castillo Shouldn't Be In The Mix

Luis Castillo is getting a quick once-over from the Phillies to see if he can be the temporary replacement for Chase Utley at second base. Even though it's quick, it could prove a little painful as the Phillies try to sort through what they've got.

At one time, Luis Castillo was a very good major league ballplayer. He's twice led the league in stolen bases, including swiping 62 bases and hitting a career-high .334 for the Florida Marlins. He's also a three-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner. The problem is that those accomplishments were a long time ago. In fact, over the past four seasons, Castillo has stolen a somewhat pedestrian 64 bases, just two over his career-high for a season.

Even considering that his best days are behind him, Castillo didn't deserve the leper status that he was cloaked with in New York. Former teammate and current Phillies backup catcher, Brian Schneider, talks glowingly about Castillo both as a player and as a clubhouse presence. And Schneider is a guy who is also thought of as a great guy to have on a ballclub, so it's a valuable reference.

While looking to salvage his career in Philadelphia though, it didn't take long for Castillo to mess up. Manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies believed Castillo would be in Clearwater Tuesday morning for a quick physical, find a uniform that fit and then hit the field with his potential new teammates for an afternoon game against Toronto. Instead, a "miscommunication" between the Phillies, Castillo's agent and Castillo himself had him roll into town well after the start of Tuesday's game and well after Manuel had crossed Castillo off of the lineup card. Just as a shot across the bow, Manuel took the luxury of making up Wednesday's lineup card early and there's no Castillo listed on that card, either.

Miscommunication or not, Manuel summed it up best. "If it was me, I would have been here two days ago," said Manuel. Yes, Castillo was coming from the east coast of Florida, but it's not a trip that requires anything resembling an overnight drive.

Oh, well.

The big reason why the Castillo audition is a mistake is that it will take valuable time away from the rather interesting battle going on in camp between Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and Pete Orr. Valdez was thought to be the leader to win the job, with either Martinez or Orr getting a utility job. All three are having good springs and have taken turns in the spotlight either offensively, defensively or both.

The situation is especially dire in the case of Martinez. Being a Rule 5 pick, the Phillies would have to pass him through waivers and then, if nobody claims him, offer him back to the Washington Nationals and have them decline if they want to keep him in the organization. With his ability to play all over the diamond and a strong hustle attitude on the field, Martinez seems to be a guy that could fit well in any organization and the Phillies should realize that.

Orr has also shown pretty much this spring. He has surprising speed, a decent ability to get down a bunt and has also taught himself to play wherever the Phillies have put him. He also brings the value of having major league experience.

Then, there's Valdez, who was much more than adequate when he filled in for Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco last season. Valdez was possibly the brightest surprise of 2010 and showed that he belongs in the majors. Plus, the Phillies will have to pass him through waivers if they don't want to keep him with the big league club, which should almost guarantee him a spot on the roster.

Castillo, 35, is coming off of an injury plagued season and you have to believe that he's not just on the downside of his career, but sucking up the final fumes of his baseball life. He also is strictly a second baseman, meaning that when Utley returns to the lineup, Castillo would have outlived his usefulness as a role player.

The Phillies have adequate representatives in-house to fill the Utley hole. If they want to do something that would make a splash, they can get more aggressive in their pursuit of Michael Young. That would be a viable option, since Young is a quality major leaguer who can play multiple positions and is used to filling that role. Instead, the Phillies are hoping that a change of scenery, which includes a view with plenty of wins on the horizon, can put some gas back in the tank of Luis Castillo. Of course, we all know the price of gas these days.

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