PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — Jim Leyland doesn’t know if Nick Castellanos will make his Opening Day roster. Castellanos may not have enough experience in left field, but the Detroit Tigers manager has no doubts about one thing.
“He’s got a great swing, I’ll tell you that much,” Leyland said.
That swing was on display again Thursday as Castellanos had three hits in an 11-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Castellanos, considered Detroit’s top prospect by many observers, is 6 for 9 this spring, giving Leyland reason to consider the youngster — despite the young slugger spending most of his time at Double-A last year.
“He’s obviously making a heck of an impression so far,” Leyland said of the former first-round draft pick. “You’d be foolish to say he wasn’t.”
Castellanos believes offseason work has his timing locked in, but it’s another kind of timing that has been just as important.
“I’m really fortunate I’m getting as much playing time but I do understand a lot of big leaguers are injured,” said Castellanos, referring to Brennan Boesch, Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry. “I’m just trying to take advantage of the time I have right now.”
His chances to make the team are not a calculation Castellanos makes for himself. He knows as the injured players work their way back into the lineup, his opportunities will dwindle.
“Good shot or no shot . I went into a spring training even last year with a mindset that I’m going to make the team,” he said. “Even though I went in with no chance, that’s not something as a competitor you want to tell yourself.”
Leyland understands the fans’ excitement at seeing the potential next big thing for the Tigers. But Detroit is a contender with a veteran lineup and another month to evaluate it.
And the Tigers had plenty of other people spraying the ball around. They pounded out 15 hits, including a two-run homer from Austin Jackson, and a single and RBI double from Miguel Cabrera.
“When the curves get a little sharper and the sliders get a little better, who knows what’s gonna happen,” said Leyland, who got three shutout innings out of starter Anibal Sanchez. “We got this kid down here who is tearing the cover off the ball. That’s good stuff. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has already showed he belongs. Following a season of injury setbacks and an offseason hamstring surgery, the Tampa Bay veteran would like to prove he is healthy and ready to contribute.
He had two hits and his 4 for 5 in his first two spring games.
“I want to do whatever I can do to help us win and whatever I can do to be on the field the next day,” said Longoria “I may get a couple of boos here and there for not busting it down the line as hard as I can right now. But if it keeps me on the field, right now that’s the biggest thing.”
Sam Fuld had a two-run triple for Tampa Bay.
Notes: Matt Moore made his first appearance of the spring on the mound for the Rays. The lefty, entering his second full year with the team, gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings. … Luke Scott played in right field for the first time since 2007, after serving as the Rays primary designated hitter in 2012 while he worked back from right shoulder surgery. He expects to see more time out there now that his shoulder is 100 percent. … Tigers prospect Dixon Machado entered the game late and went 2-for-2 with three RBIs.