By Ashley Dunkak
Much-heralded Detroit Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos finally made his major league debut, and though he answered lots of questions, he still felt like he could not quite find the words.
“I can tell you amazing, unbelievable, surreal, whatever, but it doesn’t even do it justice really because it’s a moment that you prepare for or you dream and talk about with your parents since you play T-ball,” Castellanos said, “so now that it actually happened, it’s pretty crazy.”
The 21-year-old got into his first big-league game in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians, pinch-hitting for Don Kelly in the sixth spot in the lineup.
“It was a situation with there [Cleveland Indians reliever Nick Hagadone] coming in, let’s take a look at him. Why wait? Let’s see,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s been hot. He’s had 18 homers down there, he’s been swinging the bat good, so why not see what he looks like?”
In 134 games with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, the 21-year-old Castellanos batted .276 and smacked 18 home runs. Sunday he went 0 for 2, leading off the seventh inning with a fly out to right and leading off the ninth inning with a ground out to the shortstop, Despite his status as one of the most anticipated prospects of the Tigers organization, Castellanos said he did not feel pressure when he stepped to the plate.
“No, you can’t,” he said. “If you step in the box and you start saying, ‘I have to do this,’ or ‘I have to do that,’ or whatever, then you’re going to fall in a hole. What has gotten me to the big leagues is being aggressive on fastballs. Both of the guys that I faced today have a good fastball, so that’s the only thing I was looking for.”
As far as defense, Castellanos had a front-row seat for the ninth-inning Mike Aviles grand slam that broke the scoreless tie and gave the Indians a four-run advantage. Castellanos ran right into the outfield wall trying to snag the home run.
“It was a 0-0 ball game, so I wasn’t even worried about the wall,” Castellanos said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m either going to run into the wall or I’m going to catch this.’ I wasn’t giving any thought to it. Obviously I ran into the wall before I could catch it.”
Castellanos had his family in the stands for the big event, and he said it was only right that they be there.
“Without them and the support of my family, I would have never gotten here, without my dad pitching me, my mom taking me to games, competing with my brother growing up, all those things have driven me to get to where I am now,” Castellanos said. “For them to be a part of it with me, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
With so many veterans in the lineup, Castellanos will likely be getting just spot duty for now, but Comerica Park finally got its first glimpse of a player that fans have been hearing about for years.