How Castellanos weathered storm of first hitting slump
JUN 09, 2014 1:07p ET
Nick Castellanos has weathered the storm of his first major-league hitting slump.
The Detroit Tigers rookie third baseman has batted .469 in the nine games since May 29, boosting his average from .229 back to a respectable .270.
Castellanos had three consecutive three-hit games on the just-completed home stand and will try to keep a six-game hitting streak going Monday night, when the Tigers open a four-game series with the White Sox in Chicago. (Coverage begins with "Tigers Live" at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Detroit, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:10.)
Castellanos will have more hitting droughts. He knows that, but he also knows that he has an inner belief that will carry him through the hard times.
What he might not realize is just how rare that is to find in a hitter his age -- only 22.
While his average dropped from .274 to .229 during the five-week skid, Castellanos didn't appear frazzled or lost in the least. He still had that look of steel in his eyes, a strength that was noticeable.
Castellanos went so far as to do something many veterans didn't while the team went 4-13. He met the press on a daily basis and faced the music. The kid believed in the team as much as he believed in himself.
He credits the team veterans, specifically Torii Hunter and Ian Kinsler, who have taught him about the game and encouraged him. But his approach to the game is something Castellanos didn't just discover.
"I got this attitude from my dad," he said of Jorge Castellanos, a doctor who lives in Davie, Fla. "Dad drilled being positive into me and into my head. He always has told me, 'If you are not confident in yourself, who will be?'
"If I'm 0-for-20, on the 21st at-bat, I feel I am going to hurt somebody. I am going to hit the ball hard somewhere."
Castellanos' eyes lit up in saying that, showing his obvious passion for success.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has been extremely impressed with Castellanos.
"His resiliency has been outstanding," Ausmus said. "He always comes to the park with a fresh face and looking forward to the new day. He's learning for sure.
"Any young player has lessons to learn, and he is learning them at the major-league level."
Castellanos, an aggressive hitter, had to learn when to be passive. The key element there was resisting low, outside breaking balls. He had to learn to take a walk.
“Dad drilled being positive into me and into my head. He always has told me, 'If you are not confident in yourself, who will be?'”
The rookie had four walks through his first 151 plate appearances, but has eight in his last 50.
"That was the key," Castellanos said. "It's amazing how you hit better when you walk. If the pitchers knew I was going to swing, why throw strikes?"
That the recent scouting report on how to pitch Castellanos no longer applies was evident Sunday night in the second inning.
Boston's John Lackey -- a cagey, veteran starter -- threw Castellanos a low, outside breaking ball on a 2-2 count. Castellanos resisted the pitch, and Lackey stepped off the mound to pace a bit. The pitcher was clearly frustrated by Castellanos not taking his bait.
Castellanos ended up fouling off the first full-count pitch before grounding out. It was clear, however, that an adjustment had been made.
That's what baseball's about. Hitters and pitchers make adjustments, and the ones who keep making them are the ones who stick around.
Castellanos took a pitch from Lackey the other way for a leadoff single in the seventh inning, then scored the go-ahead run.
In the top half of that inning, Castellanos dove for a ball in the hole to make a play on Xander Bogaerts that kept Boston from taking the lead.
Castellanos's a gamer, but far from perfect. On Sunday, he also made his fifth error of the season on a relatively easy grounder.
But while his .953 fielding percentage puts him 15th among 21 major-league third basemen with enough fielding chances to rank, there are 18 third basemen with more errors than Castellanos.
He's holding his own with the glove and coming on with the bat -- showing us why he was rated Detroit's top prospect, and why he's caught the attention of Hall of Famers such as Al Kaline and Reggie Jackson.
The common thread to finding a way is that belief in himself, fostered by his father and reinforced by teammates.
"Struggling is a mindset," Castellanos said. "Every game is individual. Every play is individual. Every at-bat is individual.
"Torii and Kinz have helped me with my confidence, too. They said, 'There's no need to create a new Nick. Your talent got you here.'"