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New contract, same 'unselfish' Castillo

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New contract, same 'unselfish' Castillo


Florida second baseman Luis Castillo isn't resting easy, even after signing a $16 million deal during the offseason.




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PORT ST. LUCIE - It's easy for Luis Castillo to laugh about it now. But it wasn't all that funny at the time. The only car he could afford during his first year in the minors was a $250 clunker that broke down in downtown Chicago.


''It cost me $150 [in cab fare]to get back to Kane County,'' Castillo said.


Come Tuesday, Castillo will be in the Marlins' opening day lineup for the seventh time. If he stays healthy, there will be an eighth and a ninth.


Castillo signed a three-year contract during the winter that will keep him in a Florida uniform, not to mention out of $250 lemons. He'll make $16 million -- enough that it enabled him to buy new homes for his mother, sister and brother.


But not enough, he said, to cause him to suddenly turn lethargic.


''A lot of players, they get big contracts and may not try as hard,'' Castillo said. ``I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to stop playing hard.''




Only one player -- catcher Mike Redmond -- has been in the organization longer than Castillo, and even then by one day. Redmond was signed Aug. 18, 1992 -- a year before the Marlins played their first game. Castillo was signed a day later, a month before his 17th birthday.


The Marlins have gotten their money's worth out of the second baseman, who teams with shortstop Alex Gonzalez to make up one of the majors' best defensive middle infields.


Castillo won his first Gold Glove last season and was selected to the All-Star team for the second time.


But he has brought his share of offense, too. He has hit .300 or better four times and led the majors in stolen bases twice.


His 35-game hitting streak in 2002 was the 10th-longest in major-league history.




''He's right up there with the best of them,'' manager Jack McKeon said. ``I've had Pokey [Reese] and Robbie [Alomar]. They're the best three I've had. Luis, right now, is the best.''


Said infield coach Perry Hill: ``I think there's Luis, and then there's the rest of the National League.''


When Florida traded for Juan Pierre, Castillo approached management and said he would be happy to relinquish his spot at the top of the order.


''There's a lot of egos in this game, and he's not one of them,'' Hill said. ``It was his idea to give up the leadoff spot. He's very unselfish.


``Now look at him. He's one of the best two-strike hitters in baseball, and that gives Pierre more opportunities to steal. I don't think a lot of people realize how important that is.''




Castillo's speed isn't what it was before he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip. That and the fact he now hits behind Pierre, the majors' stolen-base leader last season, saw Castillo's steals drop from 48 in 2002 -- before the surgery and lineup switch -- to 21 last season. He was thrown out 19 times, a success rate of barely over 50 percent.


''He came up to me the other day, though, and said he's ready to steal again,'' McKeon said. 'He said, `I want to steal.' I said, 'Fine. You can run anytime you want.' ''


Castillo is glad his days with the Marlins are guaranteed beyond this season.


''I feel so happy to be here,'' he said.

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Guest Moneyball

i haven't seen him run much. but the times i have it is not as worse as last year. but i don't think he will ever run like he did. i hope i'm wrong.if pierre-castillo got atleast 100 steals it would be nice. pierre i think will get 70 steals and castillo maybe 30.

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