Erie's Castellanos flirts with cycle

Tigers' No. 2 prospect homers, triples, doubles in 'Wolves' win

Nick Castellanos raised his Eastern League average to .273. (Erie SeaWolves)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | June 20, 2012 7:25 PM ET

For No. 2 Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos, everything is a matter of timing. If he's a fraction late with his stride, for example, his swing is late and he can't get around on outside pitches.

But when his timing is on -- like it was Wednesday -- he can lace pitches, any pitches, to all parts of the outfield. Now two weeks into his first trip through Double-A, the first-rounder gave fans in Erie their first taste of his abilities with the bat.

Castellanos went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in Erie's 7-4 win over Bowie. He missed hitting for the cycle by a single.

"It was when I was very young, maybe in coach-pitch," Castellanos said about his last cycle. "If you don't hit for the cycle at that level, you don't have a very good team.

"This season, this game is up there, definitely top five. It's my first game with three extra-base hits. I drove some balls the opposite way pretty well and I got my swing back. I wasn't being myself for a few games."

He slugged a two-run homer -- his first Double-A longball -- off Jacob Pettit in the first inning before grounding out to second base in the third.

"The first pitch of my first at-bat he threw me something away and I didn't put a very good swing on it, so I had a good idea he was going to go away again," Castellanos said of his opposite-field home run. "It was a fastball away over the upper half.

"It lets me know that my timing is good and that I'm seeing the ball well. It means I'm recognizing pitches and getting the barrel on it. When I'm hitting balls to right-center and right field, I'm seeing the ball well."

Promoted to Double-A on June 5, Castellanos then ripped the first pitch he saw from Pettit in the fifth for an RBI triple to center field, and he added a two-bagger to left field on the ninth pitch of his at-bat against Michael Belfiore in the seventh.

"The triple, I thought [Michael Rockett] was going to run it down. ... He bats first in their order, so he can run. I was just hoping it got down. He slipped or fell so I went for it."

Needing just the single to complete his cycle, the third baseman was in the hole when the SeaWolves made the final out of the eighth frame. He would have batted second in the bottom of the ninth has Bowie tied the game in the top half.

Had he achieved the feat, he would have been the second Erie hitter to cycle this year. Tony Plagman wrapped up his cycle with a walk-off single on May 22.

"Of course," Castellanos said about hoping for a fifth at-bat. "I'm not hoping for my teammates to get out first of all, but I was hoping also to get another shot."

Despite dominating the Florida State League for the first two months of the season, things have been far from easy for Castellanos at the new level.

The 20-year-old entered Wednesday's game batting .225 with just one extra-base hit and one RBI in 10 games for the SeaWolves. His latest outing -- his first three-hit performance in the Eastern League -- raised his average 48 points to .273.

"I wouldn't say I've struggled because of the pitching, but because of myself," said Castellanos, selected by the Tigers 44th overall in the 2010 Draft. "I've not been letting the ball get deep and I've been swinging at pitchers' pitches instead of waiting for mine.

"It's still a transition. The pitchers are very consistent with what they do so you have to battle every at bat. I really don't believe in mechanical changes. I believe in my swing and I think it works, so if things are not going well I watch video because it is almost always because of my timing."

Prior to the promotion, Castellanos led the Minors with a .405 average in Lakeland. He recorded three homers, three triples and 17 doubles in 55 games, during which time he scored 37 runs and drove home 32.

Bowie starter Jacob Pettit (4-1) allowed six runs on five hits and three walks over five innings and third baseman Zelous Wheeler plated two runs in the loss.

Erie's James Avery (8-5) allowed four runs, one earned, on seven hits while striking out five batters over eight innings. Bruce Rondon fanned one batter in a perfect ninth in his Double-A debut to record the save.

"It was Bruce being Bruce," said Castellanos, a teammate of Rendon's earlier this year in Lakeland. "He lit up the radar gun and he was throwing strikes with both of his pitches [fastball and slider]. His stuff is absolutely electric; he hit 101 mph. It was a great debut."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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