Castro looking for low pitch counts

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Right-hander Kyle Castro recently pitched at fall instructional league after logging only 12.2 innings during his first summer in professional baseball. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 18-year-old prospect for a Q&A session.

As the 2011 MLB Draft approached, Sacramento-area prep athlete Kyle Castro was probably best known for his skills on the football field. Castro played both safety and wide receiver at Pleasant Grove High School, and he led the entire state with 12 interceptions during his senior campaign.

But Castro began getting attention from professional baseball scouts during his junior season, when he began to flash his potential on the mound. The right-hander stands tall with his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame that has plenty of room to fill out.

Although Castro has football in his bloodlines––his father played at UNLV––he ultimately chose baseball after the Texas Rangers selected him in the third round of this year's MLB Draft. He signed about two weeks after the draft for a slot-level $267,300 signing bonus.

As the hurler explains in the following interview, he wanted to began his professional career as soon as possible in order to get an extra summer of experience and instruction. Castro is also a bit young, even for a high school senior. He was 17 years old at draft time and didn't turn 18 until mid-August.

The prospect reported to the rookie-level Arizona League upon signing, where he appeared in eight games and made three starts. Castro logged 12.2 innings and yielded eight earned runs on 17 hits, walking five and striking out six.

With Castro, projection is the key word. The two-sport standout is focusing on pitching everyday for the first time in his young career. He's a good athlete who should repeat his clean mechanics well with more experience. In his debut summer, Castro featured an 89-91 mph fastball that figures to improve as his body fills out and gains strength. He also mixes in an 82-84 mph changeup and a 73-76 mph curveball, and he is currently working to develop a slider.

While it's early in his developmental process, Castro throws his change more often than most pitchers of his age and experience. His big-breaking curveball is raw and inconsistent but shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch down the line.

Castro recently finished his first professional campaign with a month at fall instructional league in Arizona. Lone Star Dugout caught up with him during instructs.

Jason Cole: Go back to draft day. What was that like for you? Did you think there was a chance that the Rangers might end up taking you?

Kyle Castro: Butch (Metzger) drafted me from Sacramento, California. I knew there was a chance. Other teams were talking about first or second with me, but he was for sure. He was saying, ‘Alright, we're going to take you here.' I could really trust him. I think, for me, that showed a lot about the organization. It showed what kind of scouts they have and how trustworthy they are.

It was a crazy moment for me, my family, and my friends. The area I was in––I was the highest draft pick in the history of my area, so it was a pretty big deal. It was just one of the best feelings I've probably ever felt in my life. It was one of the best feelings ever.

Cole: You played football in high school. What position or positions did you play?

Castro: I played safety and wide receiver.

Cole: I know you were a good high school football player. Did you have a preference as to which sport you wanted to play going forward?

Castro: My senior football year was really good. I led the state of California in interceptions. People were always thinking that I was going to go for football, and as a kid I thought I was going to go for football.

Then I started pitching, and I had all these scouts coming to me during my junior year. They would come to me all the time because they liked how tall I was. God blessed me with a body like this. So I had to take advantage of it. I think football is just really hard on your body.

Cole: Your dad played football as well, didn't he?

Castro: Yeah, my dad went to UNLV. He came out of Sac City and went to UNLV and played there. Then he got hurt.

Cole: You signed pretty quickly. Was it a goal of yours to sign as fast as possible and get professional instruction?

Castro: Yeah. I know a lot of people that come from college backgrounds and pro backgrounds, and it seemed like in the pro background, people always want you to get better. I feel like the college background is more like they need wins and that they don't care how you feel. They're going to throw you out there.

I really wanted to get out here and get professional work done. I hear about all these great things from guys like Tim Murphy (Murphy was walking by). You learn all these new things. The learning experience is just crazy. If I had known all this in high school––or any of this stuff––it would've been crazy. But I don't regret one bit coming here and going through this heat and everything. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Cole: You got a little bit of time in the Arizona League this summer. Looking back on it, how did you feel about your debut?

Castro: I think I was just trying to get in and get the feel of it. But yeah, it was definitely different than anything I've ever played before. I just wanted to take it slow and know that the coaches wanted me to get better. They didn't really necessarily care about the result. They just wanted to make me work on stuff and see how I performed, how I work off the field, and everything like that. It was a huge change to my maturity level and everything like that.

Cole: Tell me about getting accustomed to the throwing program out here. I'm sure you've never been through anything quite like that.

Castro: Yeah. Throwing everyday, my arm got a little sore toward the end of the season. We just stuck with it. The cuff program––first I kind of did it halfway and all that stuff. But now I started sticking with it, and my arm has been getting better and better. It's still holding on to me a little bit from when I didn't take care of it that much.

Cole: You had a couple weeks where you didn't pitch in the AZL this summer. Was that what happened?

Castro: Yeah, that's what happened. I was just out for a little bit just rehabbing and doing all the stuff. I was realizing that I need to do all that arm stuff.

Cole: When you were in games in the Arizona League, what were some of those things you were working on?

Castro: Making your lifting leg and your hands the same––like a rubber band that comes together and spreads apart. Stuff like that. Basically I worked on balance and separation––keeping my head straight to where I need to go and just everything like that.

Cole: You've got the standard fastball, curveball, changeup arsenal. Did you throw the changeup much in high school?

Castro: Yeah, I threw the changeup a lot. People just told me grips. I might have necessarily slowed my arm speed down, but out here I throw it just like the fastball but it comes out slower. I threw it a little bit in high school, yeah.

Cole: Have you messed with the changeup grip at all out here?

Castro: I like the four-seam grip a lot. It's not necessarily a circle––the thumb is more under the ball a little bit. It keeps me on top of the ball, and hitters aren't really on it. I've never gotten hit hard with it.

Cole: How do you feel about your curveball's development?

Castro: I like my curveball. But it needs to improve a lot. I'm starting to develop a slider a little bit. I'm getting that going. My curveball––I need to keep working on that, but it's my put-away pitch, definitely.

Cole: You pitch in your first instructs game on Monday (October 3). After a few weeks of just working out here, how much are you looking forward to getting back in there and facing live hitting?

Castro: I can't wait. We're out here trying to get better, and everybody is trying to get better. Just being out there with the best players in the organization––it's really humbling. These guys back me up, and I've got to back them up.

I want to get out there and face other teams and see their best guys. I'm really looking forward to it. I don't care––they can hit five home runs or whatever. It doesn't matter. I want to be out there and getting better.

Cole: As you mentioned, amateur scouts loved your tall frame, and you obviously have a lot of room to fill out. Do you have any sort of offseason workout plan in place?

Castro: Yeah. They give us like an itinerary. They want us to take a little bit off. But once you get back into it in November and December, they want you to start throwing again. And then they have you doing something basically everyday until spring training.

Cole: What do you want to focus on during your handful of games on the mound out here?

Castro: I see all these guys losing command, basically. I see a lot of deep counts and walks. I'm a first-pitch contact guy, and stuff like that. I want to see them swinging first pitch. I love that stuff. You get lower pitch counts, save your arm more, and throw more innings. They can hit it, but the odds are for the pitchers. The odds are against the batters. That's what I think.

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