Miguel Castro got thrown into the fire, with mixed results, when he was traded to Queens and joined the Mets’ bullpen for a playoff race last September.
Now that he’s gotten some more time to breathe in his new uniform — and, perhaps more importantly, made some mechanical adjustments to help improve his command while he’s at it — the Mets reliever is feeling more at ease with the results to show for it.
Castro built on a promising start to spring training Saturday night when he tossed another scoreless inning of relief, his third of Grapefruit League play, as the Mets fell to the Nationals 4-3 in West Palm Beach.
“He’s still so young (26) and his abilities are special,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Last year coming over to us, it’s just another stepping stone in his career where he’s learning. He’s more mature, he’s more experienced. I think he’s slowed down a little bit some of the things he needed to get better at. That’s what he’s doing right now in this camp.”
The Mets acquired the hard-throwing Castro from the Orioles at the trade deadline last year and the right-hander gave up four earned runs in nine innings, while issuing eight walks. He has allowed just one free pass in his three innings of work this spring while striking out a pair.
If Castro can carry over his improved command into the regular season, he could give Rojas another important arm to use in higher-leverage situations.
“I feel much more comfortable, just being around the guys,” Castro said through an interpreter. “Seeing [Edwin] Diaz, seeing [Jeurys] Familia pitch the way they’re pitching right now is motivating me to do the same thing. I’m going out there competing the same way they are and we’re doing what we need to do right now.”
Castro said he has been working with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner on his mechanics, making sure he stays on top of the ball to get the right release point in his delivery. The 6-foot-7 Dominican Republic native also spent time in the offseason refining his changeup, giving him another weapon to go with a fastball and slider.
“This changeup is a lot better,” Rojas said. “Last year, he even said it to me a couple times over the phone that he wanted to work on everything, but specifically getting lefties out more. So his changeup right now is in a good place. He threw a couple and they looked really good. So the command, along with a third pitch that he can bring with the fastball-slider mix that he usually showed last year, is what I’ve seen.”