Castellanos working to improve for sophomore season

Nick Castellanos believes that having a full major-league season under his belt will help in every aspect.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — As a rookie, Nick Castellanos acquitted himself pretty well offensively.

Defensively was another matter.

According to fangraphs.com, Castellanos had -30 defensive runs saved in 2014, the worst by any player at any position.

To that end, the Tigers are having Castellanos visit defensive coordinator Matt Martin in Lubbock, Tex., before spring training starts for extra instruction.

"He was in the outfield, we stuck him at third," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He really has not had a ton of time at third base. He’s been working hard on that first step. Once he gets the ball, he’s actually pretty accurate to first base."

Castellanos started his career as an infielder but was moved to the outfield when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera shifted to third base.

Once the Tigers traded Fielder to Texas, it allowed Cabrera to move back to first and opened up third base for Castellanos. 

"The last time I played a full season at third before the big leagues was in low A, 2011," Castellanos said. "The big leagues is very fast, the competition’s really good, so you always have to be in position and know what’s going on."

Castellanos said after working with Martin, he planned to arrive in Lakeland, Fla., early, by Feb. 8, even though position players do not have to report until Feb. 23.

Castellanos believes that having a full major-league season under his belt will help in every aspect.

"I’m very comfortable now going in, knowing what to expect, knowing the pace of the game and things like that," Castellanos said. 

During TigerFest, Castellanos was asked for his own assessment of his rookie season.

"I think it was very average," Castellanos said. "I feel like offensively it was OK. Defensively for what I was doing it was OK, too. I feel like I held my own. I don’t feel like I struggled and I don’t feel like I succeeded. I know that I can be a lot better than what I was last year, but I also realize that it’s a process."

Castellanos did not take very much time off after his rookie season ended, beginning his offseason workouts at the end of October.

"I was really anxious to fix all the things that I saw that I could get better at with my first season in the big leagues last year," Castellanos said. "Just really excited to get back in the swing of things."

Castellanos’ swing is what got him to the major leagues in the first place.

Last season Castellanos hit .259 with 11 home runs and 66 RBI in 148 games. He had 140 strikeouts and 36 walks.

"Going through the course of the major league season, major league pitchers adjusting to him, the scouting reports they have on him, I think he’s learned that one, he chases a lot of balls down and away — sliders down and away, change-ups down and away," Ausmus said. "I think you’ll probably see him bring those pitches up in the zone, making them hittable or laying off them."

Aside from baseball, Castellanos had an eventful offseason, marrying his high school sweetheart, Vanessa, on Jan. 10.

The couple, along with son Liam, who turns two in August, also moved into a new house.

"It’s really fun, a lot of upkeep that you find out when you own your own house," Castellanos said. 

Castellanos said he’s reasonably handy.

"Surprisingly, I do all right," Castellanos said. "With electrical stuff, not so much. Hanging stuff up, fixing little cabinet things things here and there that we need to do, I can handle it."

Now the Tigers will see if Castellanos can handle the improvements they want him to make.

If he does and if the team is able to come together with the changes they have made this past offseason, Castellanos believes they can reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

"Even with the Royals going to the World Series, I believe that this is our division," Castellanos said. "When you win the division four times, that’s something special. So I definitely believe the World Series and all that, that’s fine and great, but our first goal is to win our division.

"Because you have to get there to win it all."