Castillo's belated arrival surprises Phillies

Castillo's belated arrival surprises Phillies

Castillo's belated arrival surprises Phillies
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- This is not the first impression Luis Castillo wanted to make.

He has eight games to change it.

The New York Mets released Castillo on Friday, and the Phillies signed him to a Minor League contract early Monday. They expected him to be in Clearwater late Monday in order to take a physical Tuesday morning at Bright House Field. But Castillo never showed, and the Phillies scratched him from the lineup against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.

Castillo, who finally arrived Tuesday afternoon, called it a miscommunication between himself and his agent.

"If it was me? I would have been here two days ago," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "But it's not me. I ain't upset about it or anything. Really. When he gets here, we'll suit him up and see what he can do."

"I was surprised this morning that he didn't show up," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It happens. We were a little confused. Evidently, he was confused, too."

Castillo is expected to play Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.

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He is here because Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is sidelined indefinitely with patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee. Utley could miss months of the 2011 season.

The Phillies said Castillo must earn a spot on the 25-man roster. He has eight games to prove he can play: Six Grapefruit League games and two exhibition games against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park before Opening Day on April 1. If he does not earn a job, the Phillies said they will release him. If that happens, they pay him nothing.

If he makes the team, they will pay $414,000 of his $6 million salary.

Castillo said he is ready to win a job.

"I feel like I'm starting to play baseball again, like I'm a rookie guy," he said. "I know a lot of stuff is coming out. I'm trying to forget the past. I'm [ready] to focus and play, and I want an opportunity here. ... I'm healthy, and I feel good. I know I have to prove I'm ready. I'm here to play baseball and help this team win some games."

Castillo, 35, has hit .286 (8-for-28) with two RBIs in 11 games this spring. He committed an error and made other miscues in the field. Mets manager Terry Collins met with him, because he thought Castillo carried a poor demeanor in camp. Castillo had been upset because he had to compete for a job, which is now the situation he faces with the Phillies.

"When I spoke with Terry, we spoke about the situation," Castillo said. "I needed a chance to play. He wouldn't give me a chance to play. It didn't work out. I told him if he didn't give me the chance to play that I don't know if I have to be on the team. He decided to release me. He didn't want to give me the opportunity, and I'm here."

"I don't know what happened with him and the Mets," Amaro said. "That's not my issue. What I'm concerned about and what I'm worried about is how he handles himself here in our camp as a Phillie."

"I want to focus on baseball and show people I can still play."
-- Luis Castillo

Castillo hit just .235 with a .337 on-base percentage and a .267 slugging percentage in 86 games last season, although he hit .302 with a .387 on-base percentage in 2009. He's had trouble staying healthy and had fallen out of favor amongst Mets fans for memorably dropping a popup in a '09 game against the Yankees to cost the Mets a victory.

"It's hard, man," Castillo said. "It's New York. You know how New York is. I had a lot of moments in New York. I want to be focused and play baseball. I don't want to think about the fans and media and all this stuff. I want to focus on baseball and show people I can still play."

Manuel had Castillo hitting second and playing second base Tuesday. The Phillies had his locker ready. He had No. 3 on the back of his jersey. But roughly 30 minutes after the clubhouse opened to reporters, Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin unpinned the lineup card from the bulletin board, took out some Wite-Out and erased Castillo's name from the lineup. Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan had informed assistant general manager Scott Proefrock that Castillo never showed.

Mackanin wrote Wilson Valdez's name in Castillo's place.

Amaro said Castillo's last arrival does not hurt his chances of making the team.

"We'll just have to evaluate him one less day," Amaro said. "I just talked to him a couple minutes ago. He's excited to get here. I talked to the agent and I talked to him. He's looking forward to getting here."

"Do I think he should be here?" Manuel said. "I ain't going to say [anything] about it. I don't know. I didn't talk to Castillo. I was told he'd be here today, and I put him in the lineup. And the reason I put him in the lineup is because I wanted to see him play. Maybe I should wait and put my lineup in right at game time. That seems to work better."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.