Luis Castillo has waited 11 years for this moment.
Triple-A Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon called Castillo — a 27-year-old right-handed reliever — into his office after Friday’s game in Iowa. The Detroit Tigers had optioned right-handed starter Bryan Garcia and wanted to bolster their bullpen after they used six relievers in Friday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Tigers picked Castillo.
“This is a dream come true,” Castillo said, with Tigers bilingual media coordinator Carlos Guillen interpreting. “I’ve always worked so hard down there. There were some times and some moments in which I thought I was never going to make it because of the decisions out of my hands. With hard work and all the support, I have finally made it.”
Castillo joined the 40-man roster and entered the Tigers’ clubhouse Saturday ahead of his long-awaited MLB debut. He earned his way to the big leagues by posting a 1.42 ERA with 10 walks and 35 strikeouts over 38 innings in 36 games with Double-A Erie (three games) and Triple-A Toledo (33 games).
For the Mud Hens, Castillo registered a 1.56 ERA over 34⅔ innings.
“He’s been very good from a different angle,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s just continued to get outs. We’ll have a different look in our bullpen and give him an opportunity to see what the big leagues is like.”
The arm slot separates Castillo.
He doesn’t throw fully overhand, nor is he a sidearmer. Castillo releases the ball somewhere in between a three-quarters slot and sidearm slot. The way he pitches isn’t like anything the Tigers offer out of the bullpen.
His pitches — fastball, slider and changeup — aren’t elite, but that didn’t stop the organization from giving him an opportunity. The Tigers want to take a look at something different than what they already have from their relievers.
“Regardless of what I’m facing, right-handed hitter or left-handed hitter, all the pitchers, we trust in our fastballs, regardless as well of the arm angle I’m throwing from,” Castillo said. “I have to rely a lot on my fastball because it sinks naturally. But besides that, like every pitcher, I have to use all of my arsenal, so I throw a changeup and slider, as well.”
Before Castillo signed with the Tigers in the offseason, he spent his first 10 years as a pro (nine seasons) with the Arizona Diamondbacks, reaching Triple-A but struggling with a 6.63 ERA in 2021.
He has pitched for Aguilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Winter League for the past four yeasr. He showcased a 1.27 ERA with four walks and 18 strikeouts over 21⅓ innings this past offseason and dominated for the Dominican Republic in three appearances in the Caribbean Series.
“He’s pretty tough on righties,” Hinch said. “He’s got a sinker, slider mix from a lower arm angle. You’re seeing that starting to be a trend throughout the league, where you’re giving different looks to different hitters.”
“I’ve made some adjustments,” Castillo said. “Playing in the Dominican Winter League helped me a lot. Down there, I was facing major-league hitters, professional hitters. Adjusting to them helped me get better. That helped me come here.”
Six months later, the Tigers promoted Castillo to baseball’s highest level.
He called his family in the Dominican Republic on Friday night, but his parents were already sleeping. A phone call to his brother was successful, so he woke up the rest of the household. The entire family celebrated the completion of an 11-year journey.
“My dad tried to laugh and smile,” Castillo said, “but he started yelling, and my mom was so happy.”
Right-hander Beau Brieske completed the second and final start of his rehab assignment Friday, firing 4⅓ innings of one-run ball for Toledo. He did not issue a walk, recorded eight strikeouts and threw 49 of 66 pitches for strikes.
His fastball sat around 96 mph.
The 24-year-old is likely to start Wednesday against the Cleveland Guardians at Comerica Park.
“Stuff was good,” Hinch said. “He felt great. He check-marked all the boxes that we needed for him to be able to go five or six innings in a few days.”
Brieske tossed 7⅓ innings in his two rehab outings. The Tigers placed him on the injured list July 21, retroactive to July 18, with right forearm soreness, which had more to do with limiting his innings than an actual injury.
“Part of this quiet period for him has been to reserve some innings for us later in the season,” Hinch said. “We’ll still monitor him and keep him at five innings and nurse his innings along in August and September. We’ve tried to delicately handle the middle part of his season so he can pitch deeper in the season than he ever has before.”