Results tagged ‘ Jason Castro ’

Game 6: Final outs prove to be tough for Astros

The big news of the day at Astros camp was Friday morning’s announcement that starting catcher Jason Castro would likely miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, in addition to the medial meniscus tear that was revealed Thursday.

For more information on the Castro injury, click here.

For a look at some of the catchers that could be available via trade, click here.

On the field, the Astros lost the Cardinals, 10-2, at Osceola County Stadium. The Cardinals scored nine of their 10 runs after two outs as Astros pitchers had trouble finishing off innings.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Jason Michaels continued his hot spring by going 2-for-2 in the designated hitter role, raising his average to .500. Michaels isn’t seeing any time in the outfield because right arm is giving him a little bit of discomfort.

Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez, J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan each had a hit, and Matt Downs homered to left field in the second inning.

On the mound, Fernando Abad breezed through a scoreless inning with one strikeout, and Patrick Urckfitz and Casey Fien each threw a scoreless inning. Ryan Rowland-Smith got the start and didn’t too poorly. He retired five of the first six batters he faced before a two-out walk in second allowed the Cardinals to score three times.

“Finding that third out was elusive,” manager Brad Mills said. “I thought the ball came out of Ryan Rowland-Smith’s hand well. He deserved a little bit better fate than what happened, simply because he was throwing the ball so well.”

What went wrong: The Astros committed three errors, including two in the sixth inning when Mark Melancon was on the mound. Angel Sanchez made a fielding error, and catcher Carlos Corporan had a throwing error in the inning, helping the Cardinals score two unearned runs.

“He did a great job of getting those ground balls,” Mills said of Melancon. “You want your pitcher to get those ground balls. His breaking ball was much more consistent than his last outing, which was sure nice to see. He got some plenty of ground balls that should have finished the innings.”

The Astros were held to eight hits, with Downs’ homer the only extra-base hit in the bunch.

“You saw some real good at-bats and some questionable,” Mills said. “We saw some balls hit hard and some early-count outs, and you don’t want to see those as much. That’s going to happen, too, don’t get me wrong. I realize that’s going to happen, but you’d like to see more consistency.”

Closer Brandon Lyon allowed four hits and two runs in one inning, and Lance Pendleton’s bid for a roster spot wasn’t helped by allowing two hits, a walk and one run in one inning. Jeff Fulchino gave up a pair of unearned runs.

What they said: “Obviously, you want the results and you want to feel good. I’m not going to lie about that. The results weren’t there for me today, but I felt strong and was on top of the ball and my mechanics felt good. I was throwing all my pitches around the zone. I was happy with that and I just missed a few pitches.” – Astros pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith.

What’s next: Wandy Rodriguez, who gave up five hits and six runs in his first spring outing, tries to right the ship when he faces the Tigers at 12:05 p.m. CT in a split squad game at Osceola County Stadium. He had a poor spring a year ago and needs a good showing. Jordan Lyles, the team’s top prospect, makes his first start of the spring in the other split-squad game against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Injury update: Catcher Jason Castro underwent major surgery on his right knee Friday and is likely out for the season. … Outfielder J.D. Martinez is nursing a sore quadriceps and is awaiting his first Grapefruit League action of the spring. … Jason Michaels has been limited to designated hitting duties with some arm discomfort.

And, finally, here are some pictures from Friday:

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Above: Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg catches a portion of J.A. Happ’s bullpen session.

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Above: Jeff Bagwell talks with Brett Myers before Bagwell left camp and returned home.

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Above: Bud Norris throws on the practice mounds Friday, with Arnsberg behind him.

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Above: A 1980s Astros reunion? That’s Cesar Cedeno in between Enos Cabell and Jose Cruz. Sorry, I couldn’t get a good shot of Cedeno’s face, but trust me. That’s him.

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Above: Angel Sanchez practices putting down a bunt.

Catching options available for Astros

With starting catcher Jason Castro likely out for the season, the Astros are looking for a replacement. They are going to take a long look at those in camp — Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan — and keep an eye on which players get cut as teams begin to pare their rosters in the coming weeks.

You can bet Astros general manager Ed Wade and his staff will begin looking outside the organization and talking to other teams about possible trades. Here are some catching options that might be available:

  • Ryan Doumit, Pirates: Doumit, who slid into a backup role when the Pirates acquired Chris Snyder, wants out of Pittsburgh and is being shopped because the Pirates don’t want to pay $5.1 million for a backup.  Pittsburgh would be willing to eat some salary if they can get a good package in return.
  • Brian Schneider, Phillies: He’s an 11-year veteran who’s serving as the backup this year in Philadelphia. He hit .240 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 125 at-bats last year. Wade and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have a history of making deals.
  • A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: He’s the third string behind Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro and figures to start the season in Triple-A. He’s not a major prospect and the White Sox aren’t going to give him away.
  • Kelly Shoppach, Rays: The 30-year-old Fort Worth native is making only about $2 million this year and is two years removed from hitting 12 homers and driving in 40 runs.
  • Tyler Flowers, White Sox: He was in line to take over A.J. Pierzynski, who wound up signing a two-year deal. The White Sox have a lot of catching depth and acquired Flowers, 25, from the Braves as part of the Javier Vazquez deal in 2008.
  • Yankees: They’re catching rich in the farm system, but the Astros wouldn’t be looking for a prospect.

Castro to miss most of the 2011 season

Astros catcher Jason Castro will miss nearly the entire 2011 season after being diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, in addition to the medial meniscus tear he suffered while stepping awkwardly on first base on Wednesday.

“The recovery for ACL and meniscus is about six months plus conditioning,” general manager Ed Wade said. “There’s going to be things as a catcher he’s not going to be able to do. We’re looking at sometime in September before he’ll be back playing.”

Castro was scheduled to undergo surgery in Houston early Friday morning to repair the injuries. Castro, 23, is a former first-round pick who entered camp as the Astros’ No. 1 catcher, and his loss puts a cloud over which catchers will be on the Opening Day roster.

Humberto Quintero has been the backup for the past two years, and J.R. Towles — last year’s Opening Day catcher — is in camp and will be getting more reps at catcher instead of being tried out at other position on the diamond. Non-roster players Carlos Corporan, Brian Esposito and Rene Garcia are also in camp.

“I think the first thing we have to do is evaluate the catchers we have in camp,” Wade said. “We’re fortunate to have J.R. and Quintero and Corporan who have big league experience. We’ve got Garcia and Esposito here. We’ll evaluate what we’ve got, but as is always the case if there’s opportunity to do something to improve the club we’ll try to do that.”

Castro hit .205 with two homers and eight RBIs in 67 games in his Major League debut last year. He moved steadily through the Minors since being drafted with the eighth overall pick from Stanford University in 2008.

“I feel bad for Jason, obviously,” Wade said. “Millsie talked to him last night briefly after I called him to let him know what Dr. [David] Lintner had to say. It goes without saying that Jason is going to be down about something like this. You just have to provide him support and we’ll do everything to get him back at the appropriate time, and hopefully this is the only setback he’s got in what turns out to a long big-league career.” 


Game 5: The race for fifth starter begins

The Astros won their second Grapefruit League of the spring, beating the Florida Marlins 5-3 on Thursday afternoon at windy Osceola County Stadium. It was another day of some stellar pitching performances.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: The Astros jumped on the Marlins for two runs in the first inning and two more in the second inning. Brett Wallace continued his strong spring with a two-run single in the first, and Humberto Quintero and Clint Barmes added RBI hits in the second to make it 4-0. Quintero had an RBI in the sixth, going 2-for-2. Drew Locke went 2-for-2 with his first two hits of the spring.

“It felt good,” Locke said. “I’ve been working a lot in the cage with Barney [hitting coach Mike Barnett] and I finally felt comfortable up there. I think I was rushing things, trying to do too much up there. I kind of fixed a couple of things and had a couple of good swings. I got that first hit out of the way and now I can just relax up there.”

Nelson Figueroa made his first start and threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk, and Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez and Gustavo Chacin each threw a scoreless inning. Figueroa pounded the zone and threw 31 pitches in his audition for the No. 5 starter’s spot.

Wallace started a nice 3-6 double play at first base, and Koby Clemens, who replaced Wallace later in the game, made a nice pick off a relay throw from Matt Downs.

What went wrong: There were a few hiccups on the mound, which is to be expected to you run so many arms out there. Aneury Rodriguez, a Rule 5 pickup, gave up three hits, one walk and one run in two innings, and Wesley Wright and Henry Villar each allowed a run and a hit in one inning, but nothing to be concerned about.

Michael Bourn hit into a pair of double plays, which is quite unusual.

What they said: “Figgie was Figgie, and he threw the ball extremely well and the guys that followed him up were just consistent. A couple of them work themselves into some jams but they were able to battle through it and get themselves out of jams, and it’s good to see Chacin come in and do a good job and Henry at the end do a good job. We got some real good performances from some people.” – manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Friday should be fun. Lance Berkman is scheduled to make his return to Osceola County Stadium when the Cardinals travel to face the Astros. Ryan Rowland-Smith will make his first start of the spring, with Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino, Fernando Abad, Mark Melancon, Casey Fien, Ross Wolf and Patrick Urckfitz also scheduled to throw.

Injury update: Catcher Jason Castro was diagnosed with a torn medial meniscus and will undergo surgery Friday morning in Houston. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out, but my best guess is the range of one to two months. We’ll know more tomorrow after Dr. David Lintner gets in the knee and looks around. … Outfielder J.D. Martinez did some running and other drills on Thursday, but still hasn’t been cleared to play. He’s going to be at least a couple of more days before he gets in a game.

Sorry, no photos today. The Castro developments kept me occupied and off the back fields in the morning. You can bet I will have some on Friday, with an emphasis on the Puma’s return.

Castro headed for surgery

Astros catcher Jason Castro, who injured his right knee stepping awkwardly on first base in Wednesday’s game against the Tigers, flew to Houston on Thursday and was scheduled to have surgery at 7:30 a.m. CT Friday. The procedure will be performed at The Methodist Hospital by team medical director Dr. David Lintner.

It’s unknown how long Castro will be sidelined, but he remained optimistic as he left Osceola County Stadium and headed to the Orlando airport.

“There’s nothing that can change it,” he said. “I’m trying to stay positive and really looking to start the rehab process and get back to playing.”

Players who have undergone similar surgeries have been out of action anywhere from four to six weeks, which means there’s a chance Castro could begin the regular season on the disabled list. The Astros have five healthy catchers remaining in camp, including Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles.

Quintero appeared in 88 games last year as the backup, and Towles was the Opening Day catcher a year ago, but was sent to the Minor Leagues lost most of the year with a finger injury. Non-roster invitee Carlos Corporan could get more playing time.

Wade said likes the catching depth in camp, but he’d be open to bringing in another catcher to add to the mix.

“We always look to try to improve the club if we could,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity to do something, we’d be open to it. It’s so early right now, so we’ll just have see what.”

Let the games begin, Astros

The Astros will kick off their Grapefruit League campaign at 12 p.m. CT Monday with a game against the Atlanta Braves at Disney World. It’s the first of 37 games for Houston this spring – including six split-squad games – in preparation for the April 1 season opener at Philadelphia.

“You can go through as much drills as you want, but until you’re really putting another team across the field, you’re never really [sure what you’re seeing],” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “We can go through these fundamentals, but they know where we’re going to hit the fungo or know what’s happening. Now the evaluating process ramps up a little bit.”

Here is the Astros’ starting lineup for the game:
CF Michael Bourn
1B Brett Wallace
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
DH Jason Michaels
3B Chris Johnson
C Jason Castro
2B Matt Downs
SS Tommy Manzella

LHP Wandy Rodriguez will start on the mound. Also scheduled to pitch are Henry Villar, Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton, Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright.

On Sunday, the Astros played an intrasquad game with Koby Clemens going 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs to lead Dave Clark’s team to a 5-1 win over Bobby Meacham’s team. J.B. Shuck went 3-for-3 with a triple for Meacham’s squad.

Here are the stats from the game in which each pitcher threw an inning — Clarkie’s Crushers: RHP Jordan Lyles (K); RHP Jose Valdez (H, K); LHP Patrick Urckfitz (H,1R/0ER); RHP Nelson Figueroa (H); RHP Arcenio Leon (H, 2BB); RHP Ross Wolf; OF Brian Bogusevic (2×3, R); OF T.J. Steele (0x4, RBI); IF Anderson Hernandez (1×2); IF Tommy Manzella (1×3, R); C Carlos Corporan (2×3, RBI, R); OF J.D. Martinez (1×2, BB, R); IF Koby Clemens (3×3, HR, 2RBI, R); IF Jose Carlos Thompson (0x1, 2BB); IF Jay Austin (3×3); Meach’s Mashers: LHP Fernando Abad (2H, K); RHP Sergio De Leon (2H, 2R/2ER, BB); RHP David Carpenter (3H, 3R/3ER, BB, K); RHP Casey Fien (H); LHP Douglas Arguello (2H, K); RHP Cesar Carrillo (H, BB, K); C J.R. Towles (0x3); IF Brian Dopirak (0x3); IF Jimmy Paredes (0x2, BB); OF J.B. Shuck (3×3, 3B); OF Drew Locke (0x3, R); C Brian Esposito (0x2, RBI); IF Jiovanni Mier (0x1, BB); OF Jon Gaston (0x3); IF Oswaldo Navarro (0x2).

Defensively, Anderson Hernandez made a terrific diving stop behind third and was able to throw out catcher Brian Esposito, and Tommy Manzella had a nice game at third base. Also, shortstop Jiovanni Mier was able to complete a double play after second baseman Jimmy Paredes fumbled a ground ball. Carlos Corporan threw out a runner at second base trying to steal.

Here is the day in pictures:

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Above: Outfielder Brian Bogusevic warms up in the outfield.

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Above: The Astros practiced relays and cut-offs on Sunday morning, using players from Minor League mini camp as base runners. Third baseman Chris Johnson is taking a throw as prospect Telvin Nash runs the bases.

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Above: Left-hander Gustavo Chacin gets his work done in the bullpen.

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Above: Manager Brad Mills takes notes during Sunday’s intrasquad game.

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Above: Jordan Lyles throws a pitch in the intrasquad game. He threw a scoreless inning.

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Above: Outfielder J.D. Martinez stands in the batter’s box.

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Above: Former first-round pick Jiovanni Mier swings at a pitch.

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Above: J.B. Shuck gets ready to rip one of his three hits in Sunday’s intrasquad game.

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Above: Cesar Carrillo, a former first-round pick of Padres, prepares to fire a pitch Sunday.

Lineup set for spring opener

Astros manager Brad Mills has set his lineup for the Grapefruit League opener Monday against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. As is the case with most road games in Spring Training, several players will be staying behind to get their work in at camp.

Clint Barmes, Bill Hall, Humberto Quintero and Brian Bogusevic are among those not traveling with the team to Disney on Monday, but the Astros are at home Tuesday at Osceola County Stadium. That’s when we should get our first glimpse of the lineup with all the players available.

Here is the lineup for Monday’s exhibition opener against Atlanta:

CF Michael Bourn

1B Brett Wallace

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

DH Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

C Jason Castro

2B Matt Downs

SS Tommy Manzella

Wandy Rodriguez will and pitch two scheduled innings.

Young players hold key for Astros

Perhaps it’s foolish to assume Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez will each have rebound seasons, and perhaps it’s too much to ask Hunter Pence and Bud Norris to keep improving. Can Brett Myers and Chris Johnson possibly duplicate their success of a year ago? That, too, is a question the Astros will ponder.

For the Astros to make any kind of noise in an improved National League Central in 2011, they will certainly everyone to be at their best. They’ll need Lee and Wandy to perform like they did in the second half, and Pence and Norris to continue to blossom. They’ll need Myers and Johnson to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, and newcomers Bill Hall and Clint Barmes to make an immediate impact.

These are not unreasonable expectations, though it’s likely there are going to be road bumps. But more than anything else, the Astros’ need to get more from their youngsters, specifically catcher Jason Castro and first baseman Brett Wallace. The Astros are committed to these two left-handed bats in the lineup, both of whom were taken high in the first round in the 2008 Draft.

Wallace, traded from the Blue Jays last July, and Castro both got their feet wet in 2010 with varing degrees of success/disappointment. But now it’s time for them to jump right in. Imagine how the whole lineup would change if Wallace slugs like he did in the Minor Leagues and Castro blossoms into a solid hitter? That would suddenly give the Astros a deep batting order to go along with a pretty good rotation.

The Astros dealt with and certainly expected both to struggle a year ago, but now they’re fully invested in Wallace and Castro. The Astros have some good catching prospects on the farm, but none on the immediate horizon. Castro is the guy. The team toyed with bringing in a left-fielder as an insurance policy if Lee had to move to first to replace Wallace, but general manager Ed Wade said at the Winter Meetings they wanted to remain fully committed to Wallace.

Hopefully, for the Astros’s sake, Wallace and Castro can reward that confidence this season and come into their own.


I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and, like most of you, I’m back to work this week. We’ll find out Wednesday if Astros icon Jeff Bagwell made it into the Hall of Fame, and the more I hear and see feedback from those with a vote, the less likely I think it is that he’ll make it on the first ballot. Colleague Peter Gammons thinks he should make it eventually, for what it’s worth.

Wednesday also begins the salary arbitration filing period, a list that is now down to five players following the trade of Matt Lindstrom: Wandy Rodriguez, Clint Barmes, Jeff Keppinger, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.


Astros position breakdown: catcher

Every few days for the next two weeks, I’m going to take an in-depth, position-by-postion look at the Astros. What went wrong/right last year? Where do they stand at that position? Who do they have coming up that could make an impact? What does the immediate future hold at that position?

This should help us get through the World Series and into free agency, which begins five days after the end of the Fall Classic. Last year at this time, we were writing about who the Astros were going to hire as manager, so things are much quieter this time around. So let’s jump right in and take a look at our first position breakdown of the offseason: catcher.


2010 Opening Day starter: J.R. Towles

2010 end-of-season starter: Jason Castro

Others who were in the mix: Humberto Quintero, Kevin Cash

Combined stats of Astros catchers: .220 BA/.269 OBP/.312 SLG, 22 doubles, 9 homers, 39 RBIs, 35 walks, 122 strikeouts, 551 at-bats.

Free agents: None

Arbitration eligible: Quintero

What happened: The Astros have struggled to find offense at catcher for more than a decade, which was one of the reasons they drafted Jason Castro with the No. 10 overall pick in 2008. He wasn’t going to get confused with Johnny Bench on offense, but the club believes he can be a good offensive player and is already capable of catching at the Major League level.

Still, the season begin with Castro getting his first taste at Triple-A Round Rock and J.R. Towles as the starter with Humberto Quintero backing him up. Towles, in what might have been his last chance in the organization, struggled to hit and was optioned to Double-A on May 5. He wound up getting injured and missing much of the second half.

The Astros were desperate for catching help and called up Kevin Cash, who provided little offense but was a veteran presence behind the plate. All the while, Quintero was hitting his typical .230 and throwing our runners on bases. He also caught Brett Myers, who had his best season in his debut with the Astros.

With the season slipping away, the Astros finally summoned Castro from Triple-A Round Rock on June 22 to began a youth infusion. Castro was plugged into the starting lineup and hit .205/.286/.287 with two homers and eight RBIs in 67 games (57 starts). He still has strides to make defensively, though he did throw out 37 percent of the runners who tried to steal a base against him.

What’s next: The Astros are still committed to Castro. He’s only 23 years old and there’s no reason to believe he won’t get better with age. But don’t be surprised to the see the club perhaps bring in a low-cost veteran to take over behind the plate if Castro just isn’t ready on Opening Day. Among the free agents who could fit that bill are Gregg Zaun, Matt Treanor and Josh Bard or similiar-type players in age (older), ability (declining) and salary (cheap). Unless the Astros don’t tender him a contract, Quintero appears poised to return as the back up yet again.

Who’s on the farm: Ben Heath, taken in the fifth round in the 2010 Draft out of Penn State, had a solid debut and finished the year with a cup of coffee at Double-A Corpus Christi. He hit a combined .276/.387/.495 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs in 210 at-bats between short-season Tri-City and Class A Lexington, spending 37 games at the New York-Penn League and 20 games in the South Atlantic League. Venezuelan switch-hitter Federico Hernandez hit a combined .273/.303/.429 last season between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. Farther away, 2010 Draft pick Chris Wallace hit a combined .293 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs between rookie-league Greeneville and Tri-City. Jonathan Fixler and Lou Santangelo saw time at Corpus Christi last year, too.

In summary: Castro is the man of the future, but if he winds up not being able to cut it, the Astros seem to have a wave a younger catchers on the rise in the Minors for the first time in years.




Astros still have growing pains

So the Astros won’t finish at .500. Sunday’s loss guaranteed the local nine would finish with a losing record for the second consecutive year and for the third time in four years, but there’s not much the Astros can do in the final week of the season that could spoil the strides they made in the second half.

Sunday’s 9-3 loss to the Pirates was reminiscent of the first two months of the season, when the club didn’t do enough offensively to make up for its mistakes. J.A. Happ pitched a terrific game and wound up with a loss because of a costly fielding miscue and a woeful performance by the bullpen.

In addition to the error by catcher Jason Castro, who couldn’t handle a late throw by third baseman Chris Johnson, the Astros weren’t sharp on defense in the eighth inning, when the Pirates scored four runs to put the game away. Houston is 2-5 on its final road trip with one stop left in Cincinnati.

“It’s been a frustrating trip so far,” Johnson said. “We know what kind of team we have and we know we should be winning some of these games. But we’re not doing the little things. We’re throwing the ball around on defense and not coming up with timely hits. You lose when you do that.”

In the sixth inning Sunday, the Pirates were trailing 1-0 and had runners at first and third base with one out. Ronny Cedeno hit a ground ball to third base, where Johnson fielded it and turned his attention to Garrett Jones heading for home. Johnson threw home, but Castro couldn’t handle the ball and was charged with an error. It led to the Pirates scoring two unearned runs to take the lead for good.

“I hate to say it because it’s not an excuse, but it’s on the learning curve,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “When you go through it a few times – that’s the first time maybe for C.J. this year – but it’s not the first time some of other infielders, so it’s part of the learning curve we’re going through unfortunately.”

Castro was charged with the error, but Mills said Johnson should have gotten rid of the ball right away instead of hesitating and allowing Jones to get so close to Castro.

“There’s no doubt we have to tighten up some things,” Mills said. “It’s kind of something that was happening early in the year when we weren’t scoring enough runs to make up for those mistakes. That’s kind of the way it was today.”