Castle of the abyss to try to help SD

PEORIA, Arizona – “Remember this injury?” said Venezuelan José Castillo, pointing a finger at his left hand.

It’s true. Among all the injuries that have kept the Padres left-hander off the field for the past three seasons, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Castillo missed the last two months of the 2019 season due to tendon problems in his middle finger and left hand.

“For me, that was the worst injury,” he confessed. “The world came crashing down on me that day.”

That is the last time that the native of Valencia has climbed on a mound in the Majors. He hasn’t stopped battling physical issues, from a sore shoulder earlier this season to pitching two-thirds of innings in mid-August. Then Castillo’s campaign ended as quickly as it began.

The 2020 season started with more problems, with Castillo suffering from back discomfort. In 2021, he was pushed out early because he had Tommy John surgery in March.

Amid all the uncertainty, the Padres designated Castillo for assignment last November. But they were excited when the pitcher opted to return to a minor league deal, knowing he can be a dominant southpaw out of the bullpen when he’s healthy.

For Castillo, the feeling is mutual. She never wanted to go elsewhere.

“I feel like I have an outstanding debt in San Diego,” Castillo said: “They gave me the opportunity. I have to make up for that.”

So far, Castillo has been uneventful in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He has thrown 10 sessions out of the bullpen and hopes to face live hitters sometime this month. In April, he could see minor league action.

Sure, the Padres don’t want to rush the Venezuelan. The first eight bullpen sessions were fastball-only. It was only recently that he started throwing his signature slider – a pitch that opponents hit just .123 for in 2018 with a 41% blank swing rate.

“After almost three years, I feel amazing,” Castillo said. “It’s great not to feel pain in your arm. No hassles, nothing.”

Castillo jumped into the Majors with an impressive rookie campaign in 2018. He posted a 3.29 ERA with a 2.64 FIP, striking out 52% of opponents in just 38 innings.

Some in the organization wondered at times if he was destined to be the closer of the future … until the injuries hit.

The Padres, with a talent-packed reliever, removed the Venezuelan from their 40-man roster before the 2021 Rule 5 Draft. They then signed him to a minor league deal.

“We’re excited to have Jose back,” general manager AJ Preller said earlier this offseason. “Everyone knows that we look favorably on him and the ability he has when he is healthy. That’s the key.”

“I am very competitive. I want to be there fighting,” Castillo said. “I want to contribute. I want to help. Unfortunately, my arm has not left me. So, I want to be healthy to help my team as much as I can.”

If Castillo’s rehab continues on track, he may not be out of the 40-man roster for long. He’s confident the Padres will get to see that same strikeout specialist they saw in 2018.

Well, not the same, Castillo said.

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Castle of the abyss to try to help SD