Sunday, February 29, 2004

Healthy Castro fits role like glove

Versatile infielder over injuries of '03

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SARASOTA, Fla. - Juan Castro feels good this spring.

Utility infielder Juan Castro.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
Castro set career highs in nearly every offensive category last year. Long known as a fielding specialist, the versatile infielder put up decent offensive numbers - .253, nine home runs, 33 RBI in 320 at-bats - and did so despite rarely being 100 percent physically.

He started the year on the disabled list as a result of offseason surgery on his left knee. He was recalled from a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville when shortstop Barry Larkin went on the DL April 14.

Castro remained with the Reds the rest of year. But he dealt with a stiff back and a sore right knee.

In 2002, he missed April and May with strained hamstring.

All that's behind him.

"I feel great," he said. "No problems at all.'

Castro, 31, figures to get a lot of action again this season. He's probably the only backup infielder guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Castro's versatility makes him valuable.

He can play all the infield positions. He is a defensive upgrade over the projected starters at second and third. He's also likely to get some time at shortstop, because Larkin doesn't play on an everyday basis anymore.

Castro likes working with Randy Whisler, the coach in charge of infielders.

"It's nice," Castro said. "He comes from the same school as I came up with the (Los Angeles) Dodgers."

ALL WET: The Reds' activities were still limited Saturday by wet fields.

They were able to use only the main field at Ed Smith Stadium and one other field. The outfields on other fields remained too wet.

"It hasn't been too bad," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "We've got the program set up, so we can do it on one field."

MILES PLEASED: The Reds are down to two two-a-day sessions before things break up because of the intrasquad games. Miley is happy with what has been accomplished.

"Very pleased," he said. "Not only with the major league staff, but the minor league staff has said every station has gone well. The focus, concentration and energy have been there."

Miley isn't ready to point to who has looked good in camp.

"I've watched everybody," he said. "I don't want to point out anyone. But, as a group, the effort has been there."

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