Defense of 'more athletic' Castellanos improving

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Brad Ausmus on Nick Castellanos' defensive setup: “He is doing better.”

Jupiter, Fla. – The education of Nick Castellanos continues.

Castellanos worked tirelessly during the offseason on his first-step quickness and agility, trying to improve his reaction time and range at third base.

The early results: "He is doing better," manager Brad Ausmus said.

The emphasis this spring has been on his defensive set-up and pre-swing preparation.

"(Defensive coordinator) Matt Martin is really working with him," Ausmus said. "When we played in Kissimmee (Friday), we videotaped him on every pitch for about three innings regarding his preparation, his setup.

"We wanted to make sure he's on time and repeating the same routine every time he gets set. Matt's been working with him on that and he's doing drills. He does agility drills with (strength and conditioning coach) Chris Walter three times a week."

The progress, Ausmus said, was noticeable, though he still has a ways to go.

"He was a lot better than he was last year," he said. "But he wasn't always repeating the same routine. Sometimes he took two steps to get ready, sometimes he took three steps. Sometimes he was on time, sometimes he was late, sometimes he was early.

"We're trying to get him to be consistent with his setup every time and be on time. So as the ball is coming into the strike zone, he's coming to a set position. He is doing better. Where last year a lot of times a ball would be hit and if it wasn't hit to him, he didn't move. Now, when a swing is taken he is reacting."

Martin had to completely change Castellanos' defensive stance.

"Last year he got really low and locked himself into a position," Ausmus said. "Now, he's not upright, but he's a little less crouched and little more athletic. He almost got down like a catcher last year. He was so deep in his squat, it was tough for him to move."

The result was that Castellanos ranked near the bottom in defensive metrics that measured range and runs saved among third basemen – even though his hands were mostly sound. He caught what he got to, in other words, but the metrics said he didn't get to enough.

It's with the bat that Castellanos is going to do most of his damage, though, and there has been no drop-off there.

He came into the game Sunday hitting .294 with a .529 slugging percentage. He's got a double and a home run among his five hits.