Frank Castillo’s day in the spotlight

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Frank Castillo’s big-league career was rather interesting in the abstract. On the whole, he looks like a below average starter — he finished 82-104 with a 4.56 ERA in 13 seasons — but he had his moments.

In his first full season, he had a 3.46 ERA in 33 starts for the 1992 Cubs. He regressed the following year and ended up spending most of 1994 in the minors. He came back with his best season in 1995, finishing 11-10 with a 3.21 ERA that ranked eighth in the NL. The next year, he tied for the NL lead in losses, and when he went 3-9 with a 6.83 ERA for the Tigers in 1998, he appeared done, even if he was just 29.

Rather than give up, Castillo kept going. No turnaround appeared forthcoming when he posted a 4.68 ERA in 19 starts for the Pirates’ Triple-A team in 1999, but in 2000, he made the Blue Jays and busted out with a 10-5 record and a 3.59 ERA in 138 innings. Now, 3.59 might not seem like much now, but he would have ranked second in the AL in ERA to Pedro Martinez had he pitched the 162 innings to qualify. That caused the Red Sox to give him a multiyear deal as a free agent, and he came through with a solid first year (10-9, 4.21 ERA) before struggling in the second (6-15, 5.07 ERA) and vanishing again. He pitched just 5 1/3 more innings in the majors, the last at age 36 in 2005. In 2007, he pitched in indy ball as a 38-year-old before officially giving up. He later served as a pitching coach in the Cubs system before drowning this weekend.

But let’s go back to 1995 for a moment. On Sept. 25, Castillo was making his next to last start of the Cubs’ abbreviated season. Three weeks earlier, he had pitched a five-hit shutout against the Rockies. But on Sept. 25, facing the Cardinals, he had something even more special in store. With his wife watching on, Castillo took a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth, losing it only when Bernard Gilkey delivered a triple on a 2-2 fastball with two outs, Sammy Sosa dove for the ball in right field, but came up a bit short.

“It was one of those pitches that as soon as I threw it, I wanted it back,” Castillo told the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan afterwards. “Sammy made a great effort. He almost made it.”

He was one strike away from history, but even though he couldn’t quite pull it off, it was a whale of a game. He fanned 13 and walked just two. He faced two batters over the minimum. His Game Score of 96 was tied for the best of the 1995 season, and it was the highest mark for a Cub since 1971.

RIP, Frank. 44 is far too young.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.