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Pirates All 40: Rodolfo Castro Likely Starting Second Baseman in 2023



This is the one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster:

The enduring image of Rodolfo Castro’s 2022 season will be his cell phone falling out of his back pocket.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 9 at Chase Field in Phoenix. Castro had been recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Indianapolis for his second stint of the season with the Pirates.

Manager Derek Shelton immediately inserted Castro into the lineup as the second baseman.

Castro drew a two-out walk in the fourth inning and Oneil Cruz followed by lining a single to left-center field. Castro slid safely into third base and his phone wound up on the infield dirt.

The incident went viral, and it was one of the Pirates’ most embarrassing moments in a 100-loss season.

Major League Baseball suspended Castro for one game a week later for violating its policy of not allowing electronic devices on the field. Castro appealed the penalty and lost then served his ban Aug. 27.

The incident overshadowed what was a decent season.

Castro wound up hitting .233/.299/.427 with 11 home runs and five stolen bases in 71 games. His OPS+ 102 meant he was 2% above league average offensively.

Defensively, Castro showed his versatility by starting 28 games at second base, 21 at third base and 17 at shortstop. He had four defensive runs saved at third, minus-1 at second base and minus-2 at shortstop.

Castro began the season at Triple-A Indianapolis and his first stint with the Pirates was from May 12-June 4. In 21 games, he had a slash line of just .197/.269/.296 with one homer.

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However, Castro stayed in the major leagues for good following his second recall and the cellphone incident. He played in 50 games during that second stint and hit .247/.310/.478 with 10 home runs.

Castro batted .246/.334/.441 at Indianapolis with 12 homers and six steals in 75 games.

At 23, Castro is not a finished product. He struck out 74 times in 278 plate appearances in the big leagues in 2022 and needs to be more consistent defensively.

However, his over-the-fence power is intriguing for a team shy on offense. He became the first player in major league history to have each of his five career hits be home runs during his rookie season in 2021.

The Pirates will have multiple candidates for the starting second baseman’s job next spring in Bradenton. Castro will be among a group that should include Diego Castillo and prospects Ji Hwan Bae and Nicky Gonzales.

Hoy Park could get into the mix if he clears waivers after being designated for assignment Tuesday. General manager Ben Cherington also said last weekend that the Pirates could add a veteran middle infielder after trading Kevin Newman to the Cincinnati Reds.

However, Castro’s power potential makes him the frontrunner to be the starting second baseman on opening day in 2023 – if he keeps his phone in a secure place.

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John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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