MINNEAPOLIS -- As Twins catcher Jason Castro came back to the dugout after lacing the go-ahead RBI double, then scoring on a double from Jorge Polanco to give the Twins a two-run lead in the seventh, his new teammates couldn't help but joke with him.
Castro had been incredibly patient to that point -- walking in six of his first 11 plate appearances -- but on Thursday at Target Field he capitalized on an 0-1 slider from lefty Mike Minor. The pitch caught too much of the plate, and Castro drove it into the right-center gap to score Miguel Sano from first. It helped the Twins to a 5-3 win and three-game sweep over the Royals, and led to some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
"The joke in the dugout was we were surprised he didn't walk again," right-hander Kyle Gibson said with a laugh. "But he's a good hitter. He has a good eye at the plate. It's not surprising a catcher knows the strike zone as well as he does at the plate. That was a big double there."
Much was made about Castro's abilities behind the plate when he signed a three-year, $24.5 million deal in the offseason, especially his pitch-framing skills, but it's clear he's trying to prove he has value offensively. Castro, an All-Star with the Astros in 2013, batted a combined .212/.291/.369 over the past three years, but worked hard this offseason to fix his swing and become more patient at the plate.
"I've kinda been around a while, and I tried to take a step back this offseason and try to re-evaluate everything," Castro said. "I felt like that was one thing I could stand to make adjustments on. I worked on it during Spring Training and it's worked out."
Castro is 3-for-6 with three RBIs, four runs and a .750 on-base percentage through the first three games, and all three hits have come against lefties. His ability to take close pitches has impressed manager Paul Molitor, who believes Castro can be a better hitter than what he's shown in recent seasons.
"He's had years where he's been a good offensive player in addition to being one of the better defensive catchers in the game," Molitor said. "He feels really good with his offense and it's showing in the balls he's hitting, but also the ones he's taking."
Castro's big hit came in a key spot, as the Twins left the bases loaded in the previous inning. This time, the red-hot Sano singled with one out to set the stage for Castro's perfectly placed double into right-center with Kansas City shading him to left.
Minor's pitch, a slider, hung up in the middle of the zone, and got such little movement it was categorized as a four-seam fastball by Statcast™.
"I tried to overcorrect it because I'd kept spiking them," Minor said. "Overcorrected, and it kind of straightened out."