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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

No Place At Home For Marlins Catcher Ramon Castro

By Juan C. Rodriguez

February 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Ramon Castro

JUPITER -- The Marlins have afforded catcher Ramon Castro a unique opportunity. He's now a teammate of childhood mentor and fellow Vega Baja, Puerto Rico native Ivan Rodriguez.

At this point, Castro would just as soon play against him.

For the second straight year, Castro is behind two capable catchers. Unless injury forces Rodriguez out of the lineup, Castro figures to receive even fewer than the 101 at-bats he got as a third-stringer behind Charles Johnson and Mike Redmond in 2002.

"I would like to be on a team where I can play more," Castro said. "If I can't, I'll adapt. [Rodriguez] is a friend and I don't have anything against him. This is a job and [the Marlins] are paying me, so I have to do my job."

Castro's agent, Jaime Torres, has told the Marlins his client would welcome a trade. Chances are Castro, who turns 27 on March 1, will have to endure another season of underutilization.

Rodriguez signed a one-year contract and will likely play elsewhere in 2004. The Marlins would then employ the same Redmond-Castro platoon they intended to use this season.

Though the Marlins' bench would be better served with a more experienced reserve, General Manager Larry Beinfest probably couldn't get good value for Castro. He is a .224 career hitter in 135 big-league games, but he projects as a standout defensive and offensive starting catcher.

The Marlins can't even send him to Triple-A to play every day. Castro is out of options. A catcher of Castro's caliber wouldn't last long on the waiver wire.

"I feel like I'm prepared to start," said Castro, who hit .336 with 33 doubles, 27 homers and 90 RBI in his last full season at Triple-A Calgary in 2001. "I'm going to give my all. I won't be mad. I'll be happy like always, but I want to play more."

To his credit, Castro never allowed his frustration to sour his jovial disposition last season.

"He never had a look on his face of not understanding the role or what we were doing," manager Jeff Torborg said. "That's a tough role he was in. [Castro and Redmond] accept their roles and stay ready, and they both can hit. [Castro] is a threat coming off the bench. You know he can pop one."

Six of Castro's 17 starts came in the final 10 days of the season. As a pinch-hitter, he came through with two singles in 23 at-bats.

"It bothered me a little," Castro said of the Rodriguez signing. "I expected to play more this year, but I have to keep moving forward. I have a family at home to take care of. I just have to take as much advantage of the situation as I can until whatever happens, happens."

The silver lining is he has Rodriguez as a teammate. Up until he signed with the Astros as a 17th-round pick in 1994, Castro would work out with Rodriguez and fellow Vega Baja native Juan "Igor" Gonzalez.

"We used to call him, `mustache,'" said Rodriguez, using the Spanish word bigote for mustache. "When he was 12, he had a full mustache and beard. ... He's a good ballplayer, a good hitter. What I've always told him is he needs to be a little more aggressive. He's going to see me here now and I'll keep telling him that."

Added Castro: "[Rodriguez and Gonzalez] would say, `Let's go practice,' because I was a little lazy then. They would take me to run, to hit. ... If I stay here, I have him here. Who better than him can help me?"

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