Dipoto dives deep into how Luis Castillo has been Mariners’ ace

Sep 14, 2023, 2:05 PM

Seattle Mariners Luis Castillo...

Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 13, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners picked up their first series win of September by beating the Angels on Wednesday, turning the page after going 3-7 on a tough road trip to start the month.

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A big part of that win over Los Angeles was Luis Castillo, who allowed just two runs over six innings of work while picking up eight strikeouts.

Castillo, who was Seattle’s big trade deadline acquisition last season and shortly after signed a long-term extension with the team, now has a 13-7 record in 2023 with a 3.08 ERA and 199 strikeouts to 47 walks. He leads baseball in hits allowed per nine innings (7.0), is seventh in ERA and strikeouts, sixth in opponent batting average (.211) and second in WHIP (1.04).

The man nicknamed “La Piedra ” – or “The Rock,” which is the English translation – has certainly put together a big campaign in his first full season with the Mariners, and team president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto gushed about Castillo during his weekly Seattle Sports show on Thursday.

“When you think about ‘The Rock,’ he’s doing what aces do,” Dipoto said. “He’s going out there, he’s taking his turn every fifth or sixth day … and he’s putting an end to the losing skids, he’s giving you the innings on the night that you need the innings. He’s doing the things that aces do.”

Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk said that before the season, he expected Castillo would have more masterful outings where he pitched deep into games but with a few tougher, shorter starts sprinkled in. Instead, Castillo has been really consistent, typically pitching a quality start of at least six innings and three or fewer runs allowed. Castillo is tied 12th in MLB with 17 quality starts this season.

Dipoto thinks the kind of expectations Salk expressed were centered around how many big games Castillo pitched for the Mariners last year.

“Whether it’s the (playoff) start in Toronto, it’s the (playoff) start in Houston, it’s that start against the Yankees, he did such phenomenal things in a short period of time in 2022 that you couldn’t help but raise the bar on what you thought it was going to look like,” Dipoto said. “And lo and behold, now we look six months into our season and he’s a Cy Young candidate, and he’s putting a stop to those losing skids and he’s doing the things that you need aces to do. And when you look at all the counting stats, he’s among the best in the league when you look at innings pitched and strikeouts and ERA and all that.

“He’s been really, really good, and at times he’s been great. And my guess is like he has shown us in the past, when the temperature rises in the building, he’s gonna rise with it. He’s got that gene.”

Dipoto said that one of Castillo’s most redeeming traits is that he’s “one of the most consistent people” the Mariners have had since Dipoto joined the organization at the end of 2015.

“He never changes,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto said Castillo is very similar in that regard to Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez, coincidentally another player Seattle made a trade with Cincinnati last year to acquire.

“They’re just such consistent people they don’t let the bump in the road get them down. ‘The Rock’ doesn’t panic when there’s two men on and nobody out. He just makes his pitches. And if he gives up two in the first, he settles in and he grinds through it,” Dipoto said.

That kind of mentality and performance has trickled down to the rest of the Mariners’ young starting rotation, Dipoto added.

“They are taking that and running with it,” he said. “We saw it from George (Kirby) in Tampa, we’ve seen it multiple times from Logan (Gilbert) throughout (the season). I think in a more modest way, we saw that in Tampa from Bryce Miller and we saw it in Cincinnati from Bryan Woo. Hey, we don’t stop, we just go out there and we keep on grinding, and that’s the consistency that Luis has brought to the table.

“His focus this year was simply on being that guy over the course of a 32- to 33-start season and achieving some personal goals, which is putting himself in position like this to pitch for a postseason team with a chance to go win a Cy Young and be an All-Star, because that’s what his tools and his abilities allow him to set as goals.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. Listen to this week’s full edition at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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• ESPN’s Jeff Passan weighs in on what Mariners’ George Kirby said
• Drayer: With eyes opened, Mariners’ Kelenic makes his return
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Dipoto dives deep into how Luis Castillo has been Mariners’ ace