Castro facing early growing pains as Jays' closer

Rookie reliever's tough stretch continues vs. Rays

Castro facing early growing pains as Jays' closer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Miguel Castro wasn't going to be perfect forever, but it's clear over the past week and a half he's hit a bump in the road.

Toronto's rookie closer suffered his second blown save of the year after giving up a pair of back-to-back doubles in Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Rays. Castro has allowed runs in three of his last four outings and in four of his last six appearances.

The latest blow came when Castro was called upon with runners on the corners and two outs in the eighth inning. Toronto was clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time, but doubles by James Loney and Tim Beckham quickly turned things in Tampa's favor.

"Let's be fair to the kid, he has been pretty (darn) good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's a baby, he's done a good job, he's closed out some games for us. This is the big leagues, man.

"I like everything that he's done but he's going to give up hits every now and then. We're going to need outs from all guys out of the 'pen, we really do it. It's a young group for the most part and you're going to have your pains."

The Blue Jays had to expect at least some of these problems coming into the season. Castro had never pitched above Class A prior to this year and despite a flawless Spring Training, there were bound to be some ups and downs along the way. As in a lot of cases, it's how Castro deals with the lows that will ultimately dictate his season.

Since his first blown save of the year on April 14, Castro has allowed three earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. He has allowed eight hits and three walks over that span with one loss and a pair of missed save opportunities.

Castro wasn't the only one to struggle Saturday night. Lefty Brett Cecil allowed a single to the only batter he faced in the eighth. Prior to that Roberto Osuna retired a pair of batters, but then surrendered an opposite-field single to Evan Longoria.

"I'm not really seeing much of a difference," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said when asked to compare Castro's outings this week compared to ones at the start of the year. "Guys are ready to hit, Spring Training is over so the time is now. I feel like, I don't know, I really don't have an answer for that.

"Maybe his pitches are getting a little bit more of the plate than he wants to. Maybe I have to start using his offspeed a little bit more but I still believe he has great stuff and he should definitely keep his chin up and get ready for the next time. Guys can hit, and it's going to happen every once in awhile. It's how to come back, you have to come back stronger."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.