Tigers' Castellanos uses break to relax, shake slump

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — During the Tigers' recent road trip, third baseman Nick Castellanos was in the midst of a power outage at the plate.

He was in a 2-for-23 rut and didn't start in the final two games of the series against the Yankees. For the half of June, he was 9-of-51 (.176) and needed an opportunity to correct things.

Manager Brad Ausmus didn't start Castellanos the next three games, which made things a little bit easier to sit back and tinker. For Castellanos, that didn't mean taking a bunch of swings in the batting cage or working on his mechanics; instead, he just relaxed and took some time to ponder.

"To be honest, I didn't work on anything — that's what I needed," Castellanos said Friday. "(Before that) I was trying to take as many swings as I could and during those days off, I didn't swing that much and relaxed a little bit."

In the three games since, Castellanos went 4-of-10, with two doubles and a triple. In Thursday's game against the White Sox, he was 2-for-3, with a double and triple.

But Castellanos was quick to not rely on those impressive results as a gauge for having turned things around already.

"Even if (Thursday) didn't happen, still nothing's changed. Yesterday was nice, but I didn't need it to validate anything," he said. "One thing I don't try to do is build on results. Results are a trap.

"You can have terrible at-bats and have good results and you can have great at-bats and have no results. The only thing I try to do is just have competitive at-bats every day; regardless of the results, if I can do that, I'm going to build off that."

Castellanos pointed to his progress before being benched, citing that he had some good swings but didn't have the statistical results to back up what he was doing. Instead, he focuses on having a good feel for hitting at the plate and carrying that from game to game.

"Even before when I got benched for three days, I had a lot of good swings; I just wasn't getting results," he said. "No one notices that because at the end of the day, the only thing people notice is box scores."

Need for speed

In the ninth inning of Thursday's loss to the White Sox, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus used Josh Wilson as a pinch-runner after Victor Martinez singled.

The move was second-guessed because the game ended in the 10th inning with Wilson at the plate and two runners on instead of having Martinez at the plate with a chance to win it.

Ausmus wanted Wilson as a faster runner — with a chance to score from first in case Yoenis Cespedes was able to hit a double. Some questioned whether Martinez would have been able to score on a double, but didn't get a chance to test the theory because of the pinch-running situation. And when Cespedes ended the rally with an out, it became all conjecture.

In Friday's game, a similar situation presented itself.

With the score tied, 2-2, in the fifth inning, Martinez singled and Cespedes followed with a shot to the gap in right-center. Martinez was able to score from first — with an errant throw from first — and gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

"That's about as far as you can get from home plate where he hit that ball," Ausmus said. "They weren't playing no-doubles (depth) at that point in the game. If the throw is on line, I think Victor beats it, but it would have been close."

Seeking consistency

With the Tigers teetering near .500, the focus has been on playing more consistently and putting all facets of the game together.

Ian Kinsler said after Thursday's loss in extra innings that the Tigers were a better team than their .500 record indicated. For Castellanos' part, he's just hoping that things can get turned around.

"Your No. 1 goal is to win every day you show up to the field," Castellanos said. "You want to try to do something that helps the team win."

White Sox at Tigers

First pitch: 4:08 Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report

LHP Kyle Ryan (1-1, 4.56), Tigers: Ryan pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief on Wednesday against the Indians after starting Monday, but threw only 12 pitches. In his start against the White Sox on June 5, he gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings.

LHP John Danks (3-8, 5.38), White Sox: In his nine seasons, he's only had three with a record above .500. He's on pace to have a career-high ERA. He struggled in his last start against the Tigers, giving up five earned runs in 42/3 innings.