Can Castillo overcome blunder?

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To understand the severity of Friday night’s costly drop by Luis
Castillo, one must first remember that he entered 2009 as one of the
more unpopular players on the roster. With his patient, sometimes
passive approach at the plate, Castillo became the perfect whipping-boy
for frustrated Mets fans, as he batted just .245/.355/.305 in the first
year of a truly awful four-year, $25 million contract. Out of shape and
hobbled by a bad hip, Castillo appeared in just 87 games, and was at
his worst down the stretch, batting just .111 in another lost
September.

After the season, Mets fans were ready to see him leave town,
much like Scott Schoeneweis and Aaron Heilman were shown the door,
however his big contract was largely undesirable around baseball. In
November, Castillo had a meeting with team brass, insisting that he
would rededicate himself to getting back in shape. And true to his
word, he reported to Spring Training at 193 pounds, down from 210 last
spring.

This season, Castillo has again been a pretty marginal
player at best, batting .277/.376/.335 with 14 RBI and seven steals in
173 at-bats. According to FanGraphs,
he has a 0.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and 3.0 (Runs Above
Replacement). Still, Castillo has a walkoff-hit to his credit and with
the unusual amount of injuries for the team, he’s pretty much been
given a reprieve from the fans. Until Friday night. Against the
Yankees, of all teams. Only a drop against the Phillies could be any
worse.

The Mets have no choice but to keep running him back out
there, as awful as it was. I mean, who else is left to even play second
base? Jerry Manuel knows he can’t hide either. That’s why he’s batting
him leadoff today.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.