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Friday, December 31, 2010

Luis Castillo Hitting Ninth? It Could Work

Despite the gripes of Mets fans, Luis Castillo will at the very least be in spring training this season vying for the starting second base job that he once possessed.

He no longer has the range of his younger self and has also lost a step or two on the basepaths.

But the one thing about Castillo to keep in mind is that he is owed a ton of money in the final year of his contract. Omar Minaya signed Luis to a four-year deal after the 2007 season.

Part of the reason was to lock up a familiar face for Johan Santana. Santana and Castillo had been teammates, albeit briefly, in Minnesota.

What's done is done, and you can't change the past. In my last article about shaping the Mets 2011 bench, I constructed the bench with the assumption that Castillo would be the starting second baseman.

Now, obviously I nor do many know what will happen during spring training and beyond this season. But since there aren't exactly teams lining up for Castillo's services and he is owed a good chunk of cash, maybe the Mets would best be served letting Luis play out the final year of his contract in a starting role.

Personally, I think Castillo should have been sent packing awhile ago. After he hit .302 two seasons ago, there must have been some team willing to trade for him, assuming the Mets paid some of his contract.

I know I'm bound to be attacked for this proposal, but the following might be a situation in which the Mets can get the most out of Castillo.

If Castillo happens to show enough to win the second base job and if he proves he at least somewhat has his legs back, the Mets should consider hitting him ninth in the order. That's right, hit Castillo after the pitcher.

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa has had some success with this in the past, more so though because his pitchers could actually hit a little.

The Mets would do it for a different reason. Though Castillo in his prime was best suited as a No. 2 hitter, Angel Pagan has solidified that spot in the order. In my mind, hitting Castillo eighth is useless.

Despite his flaws, the man can still bunt very well and is a decent base-runner. However, the idea of having him in the ninth spot wouldn't be to move runners over. That's the pitcher's job.

Castillo would serve as a second leadoff man. If the pitcher makes the last out of an inning, the Mets would have Castillo, Reyes and Pagan in that order. That combination of speed and bunting ability could set up the Mets with some great scoring chances. It would then be up to Wright, Beltran and Bay to drive them in, which is a completely different can of worms.

Naturally, having the pitcher hit eighth would mean that the pitcher's spot would come to the plate more often. It's definitely a risk and something that doesn't need to be employed every game, unless it's working of course.

And again, this is only a suggestion in trying to make the most out of the parts we have. If Murphy, Emaus or Turner wins the second base job, I would feel more comfortable batting him seventh or eighth and not ninth.

I wonder if Terry Collins has at least pondered this scenario with Castillo. Yes it's risky, but it can also be a way to give some value back to a former All-Star caliber player.

Happy New Year everyone! Let's hope for some Mets success in 2011.

Originally featured at Mets Merized Online.

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