Minneapolis — Harold Castro was taking swings in the batting cage on Monday, when Tigers manager Ron Gardnhire walked up to him.
As Castro recalled it, Gardenhire said, “So you’ve never played a game up here?” And Castro, who spent eight seasons, since he was 16, grinding his way through the Tigers farm system, said no.
“He said, ‘OK, you are starting at shortstop tomorrow,’” Castro said. “I said, ‘Oh, OK.’”
It was at the urging of his coaching staff, particularly hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and first base coach Ramon Santiago, that Gardenhire decided to play Niko Goodrum at first and give Castro his first big-league start.
“Lloyd and them said, ‘What do you think about Castro? He can pick it,’” Gardenhire said. “I said, ‘I know. I saw him in spring.’ They said, ‘How about a big-league chance? Let’s go, put him out there.’ So, he will be out there.”
Castro said he slept little Monday and would have slept less had it not been for the reassuring presence of his father, who flew with him from Venezuela last week when the Tigers summoned him and is with him for this final trip of the season.
“I am very nervous right now,” Castro said, some three hours before first pitch. “My first game. The first time my name is in the starting lineup in the MLB. Very nervous right now. But probably, when I take that first ground ball or take that first pitch of the at-bat, everything is going to change.”
That's exactly what happened.
"Once I got on the field, the nerves went away," Castro said. "It's the same baseball game we play at Triple-A or anywhere else. That took the nerves away real quick."
Castro lined a ball in the right-center field gap his first time up, but Twins right fielder Max Kepler ran it down. He took a called third strike his second at-bat and then ignited the Tigers' four-run eighth inning rally with a leadoff single, his first big-league hit.
He also got his first stolen base and scored his first run in that inning.
"That was a great moment for him," Gardenhire said. "He was sitting in Venezuela and we dragged him back here for a week. He's a good kid and we desperately needed an infielder.
"If we're going to make him go through all that, then he's going to get to play. It's got to be really exciting. He's waited a long time for this moment."
Castro, a utility player, played 22 games at shortstop at Triple-A Toledo this season. He is the 11th player to make his big-league debut with the Tigers this season. He joins Sandy Baez, Ryan Carpenter, Mike Gerber, Grayson Greiner, Matt Hall, Dawel Lugo, Victor Reyes, Ronny Rodriguez, Christin Stewart and Spencer Turnbull.
Curse of the finale
It’s not something Matthew Boyd wants to be reminded of, necessarily. And it’s not something that haunts him. It’s just one of those random oddities that baseball produces.
Boyd has a history of throwing clunkers on his final start of the season.
•2015 at Texas, he was tagged for six runs on seven hits (three home runs) in 2 2/3 innings.
•2016 against the Royals, he didn’t record an out, giving up five hits and four runs.
•2017 at Minnesota, he gave up five runs on seven hits (two homers) in five innings.
He will make his final start against the Twins again here Wednesday.
“I don’t take it as a curse,” he said. “I mean, there’s a reason for everyone and with each one comes a maturity of thought process. My thought process doesn’t change. I go out and attack one pitch at a time.”
It’s not like Boyd has taken the bad taste of those final starts into the offseason. He doesn’t look at it that way.
“A season in a career is linear,” he said. “It’s not based on any individual game. It’s not base on any individual season. You take the ball, you take the ball, you take the ball and you keep going. My next two starts, one is tomorrow and the next one is five months from now.
“That’s just how it is. You keep moving forward. You keep climbing that hill and progressing.”
Gardenhire sat second baseman Dawel Lugo on Sunday, wanting to give him two days off, including the off-day Monday, to refocus.
“We’d like for him to pick it up,” Gardenhire said. “He’s kind of struggled defensively the last few games. Either all of a sudden it’s getting too comfortable, or maybe the game has started to speed up on him. We wanted to sit him out a couple of days and see what happens.”
Lugo, who has made two errors in his last seven games, has scuffled at the plate, too. In his last 14 games, he’s hitting .106 (5 for 47) with 13 strikeouts.
He was back in the lineup Tuesday.
Around the horn
Right fielder Nick Castellanos was nominated for a Silver Slugger award.
… Shortstop Pete Kozma, who grew up in Oklahoma, is an ardent fan of the Detroit Lions and Red Wings. Why? Because his father Buckey grew up in Inkster and graduated from the now defunct Cherry Hill High School.
Tigers at Twins
First pitch: 8:10 p.m., Wednesday
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
RHP Jake Odorizzi (7-10, 4.35), Twins: This will be the Tigers fourth crack at Odorizzi, and the first three weren’t a ton of fun. They hit just .200 off him and six extra-base hits (no home runs) in 69 plate appearances.
LHP Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.16), Tigers: He will be looking to slay his final-start demons. Final start 2015 at Texas, 6 runs, 7 hits in 2.2 innings; 2016 against Kansas City, he didn’t record an out and gave up 4 runs in five batters; 2017 at Minnesota, 5 runs, 7 hits in 5 innings. So odd.