One of the drills Cincinnati Reds outfielders did on the first day of Summer Camp last week featured them catching short tosses from a coach with bare hands.
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The players ran and lunged to catch the balls. Their gloves lay on the ground nearby in right-center field at Great American Ball Park. Nick Castellanos wasn’t doing that for nothing. He could see time at designated hitter this year — all the outfielders are the main candidates — but he has no desire to hit if he can’t play the field.
“I don’t want to DH,” Castellanos said Tuesday. “I chose to come to the Reds because, first and foremost, I believe they can win, but also I like being in the National League where I get to play defense every day. A goal of mine is to become a better and better defender every year that I play — every game that I play is probably a more appropriate answer.”
The Reds signed Castellanos to a four-year, $64 million contract in January. He started 136 games in right field last season, beginning the season with the Detroit Tigers and then moving to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline.
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Castellanos is a career .277 hitter who has hit 120 home runs in seven seasons. He’ll see his former team, the Tigers, on July 24 when the Reds open the 2020 season at Great American Ball Park and five times in the first nine games. In between, he’ll play his other former team, the Cubs, four times. However, he wasn’t ready to talk about that storyline Tuesday, saying he was focused on that day’s practice.
Castellanos spent the months away from baseball after the suspension of spring training with his fiancée, getting ready for the season and enjoying his favorite place on Earth: home.
Now that Castellanos is in Cincinnati and one of 30 players working out in Cincinnati, he said he’s ready to start the season and is excited to do so. He has not appeared in the postseason since the American League Divisional Series in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues.
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The Reds haven’t reached the postseason since 2013 and have suffered six straight losing seasons. The 60-game season ahead gives the franchise its best shot in years of not only winning the National League Central Division or a wild card but of advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 1995.
“I think there’s a lot of people on this team that are very aware of the opportunity we have,” Castellanos said, “and the amount of talent and the quality of character we have in our clubhouse.”
Castellanos had no hesitation about playing this season despite the threat of COVID-19. Several veteran players across baseball — but no Reds — have opted not to play. It wasn’t even a thought for Castellanos.
“Not even close but again my situation isn’t everyone else’s situation,” he said. “I’m very fortunate where I don’t have any high-risk individuals in my immediate circle.”
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