Nick Castellanos is learning quickly. He’s also learning the hard way, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Tigers have played four games. They have a winning record; pitchers are pitching well(mostly), hitters are hitting well(mostly), and the new guys are showing up. Things, at this early date in the season, are going well. Better than expected, even, especially when you consider the rough Spring they had, injury wise. And Nick Castellanos, not quite one of the new guys but by no means a familiar face, is being educated on playing every day big league baseball.
As a 22 year old, relatively speedy rookie, attempting to stretch a single into a double is generally a good thing. Unless he’s trying to stretch out that single on one of the game’s best outfield arms, Alex Gordon. Lesson number one: pick your battles on the bases. Nick Castellanos should be pushing hard and being aggressive offensively, but he should also always be aware of the opposing players strengths and weaknesses. Say our old friend Delmon Young was playing left field for Kansas City last Monday, Castellanos would have had himself a stand up double. But it wasn’t Young in left, it was Gordon and in the blink of an eye we went from celebrating his first hit of the season to face palming bad base running. But this really isn’t a problem, at least not yet.
The only real gaffe Castellanos has had in the field was a missed pop foul on Monday, one that he most certainly should have caught. When running out to make the grab, Castellanos looked like a rookie who was not at all confident in his knowledge of his whereabouts. He made a backhanded attempt to grab the ball, but just looked awkward all around. But what can we really expect? It was his first game at third base in a big league ball park, and comfort is something that’s going to happen over (hopefully a very short amount of) time. Lesson number two: know, and be comfortable, in your surroundings.
On Friday, Castellanos was chugging around the bases after a single by Kinsler. Head down, he was running hard. So hard, in fact that he ran straight through Dave Clark‘s stop sign(admittedly given a bit on the late side) at third base and was tagged out. He said himself in post game interviews that when he saw the ball drop in, all he was thinking about was crossing the plate. Again, that’s not a bad thought to have, I hope every player is looking to score every time they’re on base. That’s kinda the point. But base coaches are there for a reason, particularly the third base coach. Lesson number three: run fast, but keep your head up and your eye on your coach.
One thing could turn these three harmless mistakes into positives; if they’re used as lessons. If Nick Castellanos can learn from a few meaningless, harmless errors in his first week as a full time big leaguer, then look out. Because Nick Castellanos has talent. He’s been proving it at the plate and on the field. If he’s smart too? Then maybe we are getting an up close view to the start of a Rookie of the Year campaign. Because sometimes learning the hard way is the best way to make it look easy later on.