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Welington Castillo's Hot Bat A Key To Orioles' Success

August 31, 2017
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles now have two .300 hitters in their lineup. In addition to All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop, catcher Welington Castillo -- a career .261 hitter -- has raised his average .300 thanks to a torrid August.

During the Orioles' 8-7 win against the Seattle Mariners Aug. 30, Castillo tied his career-high with four hits and drove in three runs on a two-run homer -- his 16th -- and an RBI double.

After going 8-for-11 (.727) during the Orioles' three-game sweep of the Mariners, Castillo is hitting .379 with six homers and 14 RBIs in August. He's the second Orioles catcher in history to go 4-for-4 with three RBIs in a game, according to Elias Sports Bureau (Andy Etchebarren was the first, on Sept. 28, 1973).
"I just go [up] there with my plan and try looking for my pitch and then … don't go away from my plan," he said.
The plan is working for the 30-year-old, who was signed by the Orioles last December when the Arizona Diamondbacks non-tendered him. Castillo agreed to a one-year, $6 million contract with a $7 million player option for 2018. His recent play could make him a highly sought-after commodity on the free-agent market if he chooses not to invoke the option.
Castillo was on the 10-day disabled list twice this season, for shoulder and groin injuries. Those absences potentially cost him his first All-Star Game selection.
Now, if the Orioles continue the recent winning ways, Castillo could play in his first postseason.
"That's the team that I've seen before, when I wasn't here," Castillo said. "Everything is working out now. The pitchers are pitching better. We're hitting better. We're playing defense better. Everything [is] starting to get better for us. That's the kind of team [that] I've seen playing before."
Castillo has impressed manager Buck Showalter as well as his teammates. Showalter had been playing Castillo and Caleb Joseph almost equally for the past month, but Showalter has been going with the hot hand of late, as Castillo has started the past four games.
"Hitters get hot and get in a groove," Showalter said. "Catchers, infielders, defensively, there's a little bit of that, too.
"He and Caleb, what do they have, [24] home runs between them? And on the defensive side of it, we don't have to think about one guy versus another. All the pitchers are comfortable throwing to both of them. That's unusual. Usually, you've got a lot of back-burner stuff … I think the pitchers respect both of them, how much it means to them to call and catch a good game."
Castillo's hot bat has made an already potent lineup even more so.

"It's amazing. This lineup from one to nine can do damage," said Schoop, who leads the Orioles with a .306 batting average. " ... We score at the top, in the middle and in the bottom. So that's why they see us as really dangerous, because everybody can do damage."
In addition to his offense, Castillo has been a more-than-adequate defensive replacement for longtime Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who signed with the Washington Nationals during the offseason. Castillo has thrown out a career-high 50 percent of base stealers (22 of 44), which leads the major leagues.

While he would prefer to be the regular starter going forward, Castillo said he is fine with sharing time with Joseph.
"At the end of the day, me [and] him want to play every day, but that's not our decision," Castillo said.
"We just come every day here to play, prepared to play every day, but the decision has to be made by the skipper. There's no one [else] to make that decision. If you ask that question to [Joseph], he's going to tell you the same thing. He's prepared to play every day. Me, too. That's the [only] way every player can think about it."

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox