Castellanos working hard to improve defense

Castellanos working hard to improve defense

DETROIT -- Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos led the American League with a .376 batting average entering Sunday, but his improved defense has also caught the attention of his manager.

Castellanos is frequently replaced with a defensive substitution late if the Tigers have a lead, but a barehanded play early in Saturday's game against the Rangers illustrated the improvements he's making on defense.

"He's improved," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think a lot has to do with he understands how important it is now. A lot of young players today, pitchers come up just wanting to throw harder, and hitters come up just wanting to hit the ball farther. Sometimes pitchers don't understand how to pitch and hitters don't understand how important things like defense and baserunning are."

Ausmus said he saw a different Castellanos in Lakeland, Fla., in the spring.

"Nick, this year coming into Spring Training, you could tell by the way he was going about his work that he realized the value of being a good defender," Ausmus said. "He's worked very hard at it and has definitely improved."

Castellanos confirmed the defense was a point of emphasis for him in the offseason. He doesn't like getting pulled late in games.

"When you get taken out of the game every time your team has the lead, you want to change that," he said. "I'm not going to change that just by becoming a better hitter."

And if things keep improving in the field, so could his late-game use.

Said Ausmus, "Maybe at some point he won't have to get subbed out."

Chris Vannini is a contributor to MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.