If the score on Friday was any clue to the answer, Ausmus might have done well to put Aviles elsewhere and let Casty play his base.
According to an article by the Detroit Free Press, Ausmus decided to play Aviles because of his record of 9 for 25 against left-handed pitcher CC Sabathia. His .360 is only a few points better than Castellanos’ .351 against left-handed pitchers.
In the same interview, Ausmus said his decision to sit Castellanos wasn’t a day off for him, but more of a day in for Aviles. He did clarify that Castellanos would play in the Sunday game against the Yankees that will be aired on ESPN.
But, when a player has a hot day at the plate and defensively (Castellanos made an outstanding play fielding a foul ball hit by Jacoby Ellsbury), why sit him? There are other positions that Aviles could have played, like left field. Justin Upton is currently hitting .211 in his 19 at-bats. He has four hits and has scored one run. He has eight strikeouts so far. After his not-so-hot spring training and slow start to the regular season, sitting him for a game couldn’t hurt. It’s easy to guess that the $22.5 million salary kept him in the lineup on Saturday.
While the defensive work by Aviles and Upton was just fine, who knows what would have happened if Castellanos had more than his one at-bat in the ninth inning for Anthony Gose. Coming in at the end of the game in below-freezing temperatures is difficult for even the best hitters. Castellanos struck out in the ninth.
Aviles did score one of the runs in Saturday’s game, but his .250 batting average still is less-than-impressive. Upton did hit a double, but he never crossed the plate. Had Castellanos played and stayed on his hot streak, his teammates James McCann and Jose Iglesias (who has a plus-.400 batting average right now) could have had more chances to help him score.
Keeping a hot player in the game provides extra motivation for the entire team. Taking the hot player out can do the exact opposite. While the players may not talk about streaks, they know when a teammate is on a roll and they do what they can to help keep the roll going.
It is obvious that Ausmus understands the emotional aspects of the game. His ejection was all about emotion. The Skipper argued the balls and strikes that were called on J.D. Martinez, claiming they were wrong and changed the momentum of the game. If momentum is worth arguing about, then sitting a player on a momentous upswing (no pun intended) is certainly a poor choice. Castellanos should have played.