Jason Castro’s season is over before it even began, as the Astros catcher has been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial meniscus in his right knee.
Castro, who suffered the injury Wednesday while running to first base, is expected to be sidelined for at least six months. That leaves some chance that he could return in September, but with the Astros likely to be well out of contention by that point they’ll have no reason to rush the 24-year-old former No. 10 overall pick back into the lineup.
His injury leaves the Astros with the same catching situation they had prior to calling up Castro from the minors in the middle of last season. Humberto Quintero is now atop the depth chart and one-time “catcher of the future” J.R. Towles now seems likely to make the team (and get one final shot at sticking in the majors) as his backup. Carlos Corporan, Brian Esposito, and Rene Garcia are the other catchers in camp.
Towles is still young enough to potentially step up and show that his solid minor-league numbers are for real, but so far he’s hit just .189 in 101 games in the majors. Quintero is a 31-year-old career-long backup who’s hit just .232 with a ghastly .271 on-base percentage and .322 slugging percentage in 300 games. Among all the players with at least 800 plate appearances since Quintero’s debut in 2003 his .593 OPS ranks third-worst ahead of only Tony Pena (who has since converted to pitching) and Jeff Mathis.
Castro’s development was one of the few things Astros fans had to look forward to this season, but instead they may not see him again until 2012 and an already bad team just got even worse.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.