* RP Miguel Castro, 20, shown here with C Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) has had two scoreless outings in the first two games. The valuables safe above his locker in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse gave him more problems than Yankees hitters. ....
By Bob Elliott
NEW YORK _ Miguel Castro was in trouble.
Not the first-and-second, two-out, making his major-league debut kind of trouble.
He had survived that with a strike, a ‘look-at-me’ base-running, adventure and another strike by catcher Russell Martin.
It was now more than an hour after the Blue Jays opening day win.
Castro was dressed and ready to leave the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
Wearing his red head phones he punched in his personal code for his safe above his locker and hit the unlock button.
And then he hit the unlock button again.
Since he hit the unlock button twice he would now have to wait 14 minutes before he could try again.
New York is a city where people punch in 60 seconds on the micro wave, shut the door and yell “HURRY UP.”
A clubhouse attendant tracked down clubhouse manager Lou Cucuzza Jr., who returned with a gizmo and a cord to unlock and re-program the safe.
It’s a good bet visiting clubhouses in the class-A Northwest, class-A Midwest and class-A Florida State Leagues have state-of-the-art safes for valuables like Yankee Stadium III. Castro pitched at Vancouver, Lansing and Dunedin last season and now he was pitching opening day before 48,469 fans in the House that Derek Jeter built.
Castro had more trouble with the safe than escaping the first and second jam.
Manager John Gibbons brought Castro into the game to face Mark Teixeira, with Didi Gregorius on second, Carlos Beltran on first and two out. Lefty Aaron Loop had hit Gregorius to open the eighth, retired the next two hitters before walking Beltran.
Castro’s first pitch was a 98 MPH fastball which Teixeira took for strike one and on the pitch Gregorius was off and running from second. Martin caught the strike and with switch hitter Mark Teixeira in the left-handed hitter’s batter’s box had an easy path to throw another strike to third baseman Josh Donaldson for the out.
“He was trying to do too much,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, of the man replacing Jeter at shortstop. “In a game like this, you’re looking for a three-run homer. That run doesn’t mean a lot. It was a good learning experience in Game 1.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Castro popped up Teixeira to left fielder Kevin Pillar, struck out Brian McCann looking at a slider and Chase Headley lined to first baseman Justin Smoak for a 1-2-3 ninth to wrap up the Blue Jays opening day win. McCann and Headley are both 11 years older than Castro.
As they say around the sandlots Castro is “playing up” ... a few levels. With a natural progression of taking it slow with prospects he should have started the season at Dunedin.
“They believed he belonged here, they earned the job,” said starter and winner Drew Hutchison of Castro in particular and the other five rookies on the roster in general. “They earned their jobs.
“Every young guy is going to struggle.”
“They have always been supportive,” Castro said. Castro was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies but didn’t pass his physical because he only has one tendon in his right elbow. Ismael Cruz, Jays director of Latin American scouting and Rosario, gave Castro a $43,000 US signing bonus.
R.A. Dickey doesn’t have any ligament in his right elbow. He pitched from 1996 to 2005 before becoming a knuckleballer.
“I’m not scared of having young players on a team, I said to people this spring,” said Donaldson.
“If they do what they’re supposed to do we’re all right,” said Edwin Encarnacion.
How many teams bat 1.000 on rookies?
How many go 6-for-6?
That’s some kind of lottery they are playing.
Well, off the tiny, very early sample size of one game it was a good start.
No, it was an excellent start.
Travis homered, walked twice and made all the plays at second, Pompey hit the ball hard and stole a base, although he had a zero in the hit column and Castro pitched as he did in the spring.
“He didn’t scare, he’s a 20-year-old at Yankee Stadium,” Encarnacion said, “and he came in throwing strikes.”