Detroit Tigers’ AJ Hinch: Harold Castro ‘would be more appreciated in a different era’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers utility player Harold Castro has 24 hits across 70 at-bats this season, good for a .343 batting average.

Castro, 27, continues to deliver in a variety of roles. He punched a walk-off single May 15 to beat the Chicago Cubs and possesses six of his seven multi-hit games in May. Also, he has played seven positions in 25 games.

But Castro only has one extra-base hit this season. In a time where launch angle, exit velocity, slugging percentage and home runs determine how much a player gets paid, Castro doesn’t overwhelm himself with the latest compensation structure.

He just hits singles.

“Harold is a little bit of a throwback that just accepts singles and what the pitcher gives you,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Friday. “He does hit the ball hard. He does hit the ball on the barrel. He does have a nice swing path through the zone. He would be more appreciated in a different era.

“I know he’s very appreciated on our club, and he can do a lot of things. I applaud him for knowing himself and what he does best and taking whatever the game gives him.”

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His lone extra-base hit — a double — came in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners as right-hander Spencer Turnbull pitched the eighth no-hitter in franchise history. It marked Castro’s 24th extra-base hit in his 150-game career.

As for Castro’s 23 other hits in 2021? All singles.

“Sometimes it’s hard,” Castro said. “I want to hit doubles, triples and homers. But I feel pretty good, too, because I can get on base and the guy behind me can hit a homer. That’s two runs for the team. That’s my mindset, just help my team in any way I can. If I get on base, the guy behind me can do something.”

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The last time Castro homered was Sept. 14, 2019, against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. All five of his career home runs occurred in the 2019 season. He added 10 doubles and four triples in 97 games that year, as well.

In the past two seasons, Castro is hitting .345 (41-for-119) with five doubles, 13 RBIs, nine walks and 26 strikeouts across 47 games. While he swings and misses too often, he makes up for those mistakes by getting on base with singles.

“Harold’s a good hitter,” Hinch said. “He knows a ball from a strike. He knows what he handles well. He can hit early in the count. He can hit late in the count. It’s why they nicknamed him Hittin’ Harold Castro.”

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The secret to Castro’s success is that he understands the importance of being himself. He probably won’t ever get paid top dollar in free agency, become an everyday player or find himself as the centerpiece of a franchise-altering trade.

That’s simply not the type of player Castro is.

“We have to really preach: Be yourself and take what the game gives you,” Hinch said. “Harold does that as well as any of our guys. I’m trying to line him up to be successful. He can move around the field defensively. I know he’s going to put up a good, competitive at-bat.

“I’m putting him in the two-hole often when he plays because I trust ball in play. I think he’s going to put up a good at-bat and move the runners and create rallies. It’s worked so far, and he’s going to have to continue to be himself.”

In his four-year career, Castro has played eight of nine positions: Second base (45 games), center field (34), third base (17), left field (16), first base (13), shortstop (11), right field (11) and pitcher (one). The only position remaining is catcher.

And Castro feels prepared for the challenge.

“I’m ready,” Castro said. “If AJ needs me, I’m going to be ready for it.”

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Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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