Alex Castellanos is back tonight. And Scott Van Slyke. And Jerry Sands.
Hey, even Josh Fields, Luis Cruz, Trent Oeltjen, Matt Angle and Tim Federowicz are here too. It’s like a seven-game winning streak ‘Topes reunion. But instead of trading stories about how good they used to be, they’re going to make new ones about how good they actually are.
“The nucleus of our club looks pretty close to what he had at the start of the season right now, and that’s a good thing,” Isotopes Manager Lorenzo Bundy said.
You don’t say.
That was the team that had six different guys batting over .300. Actually, that was the team that, as a whole, was hitting almost .300 (.289). They ranked second in home runs (20), third in RBI (111) and third in runs (119). They ate Powerbars for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And now they’re back, and presumably, better than ever. With three of the everyday starters having seen time with the Dodgers already, PLUS a lineup that features the scorching hot Brian Cavazos-Galvez, the ‘Topes shouldn’t have any problems in the near future.
Except maybe fitting everyone into the lineup.
“That’s the time when your managerial skills come in as far as spreading time around,” Bundy said. “But at this level you don’t know who is going to be here one day and gone the next.”
Well, while they are here, I plan on thoroughly enjoying each and every day they crank up the bats. I plan on soaking in every box score that could easily belong to a football game: 7-3, 14-6, 21-0… A little too far? I think not.
“Obviously having everyone back here makes us strong again in a sense,” Isotopes Hitting Coach John Valentin said. “We hope to get back on a roll like we did early in the year and get back to first place.”
Go ahead and put us back on the fast track for the top rung. In the last week or so, the ‘Topes have moved from four and a half games back of first, to only one and a half. During the streak, as the big leaguers have begun to slowly trickle back to Albuquerque, the Isotopes have scored 10 or more runs in three of the four most recent victories.
“We’ve swung the bat really, really well the last few nights,” Valentin said. “Hopefully it’s a good sign that we’re going to start to get hot with the bats and help our pitching out.”
Oh yeah. I nearly forgot about the guys out on the mound for us, who, arguably, have been the biggest cause for the improved play. Between starters Fernando Nieve, Will Savage, Stephen Fife and John Ely, none of the hurlers have allowed more than four runs in their previous starts at home. And yes, that includes the rarefied air of Isotopes Park, which is not especially known for aiding pitching.
“We’ve been getting really good pitching, and that’s been a key point,” Valentin said.
Whatever you want to attribute our hot streak to lately, winning six of the last eight, it’s been vintage ‘Topes. Hitting. Scoring. Winning. It’s all coming together, much like the core of this season’s starting roster. However, the trick is going to be not chasing first place, just taking care of business day by day at the yard.
“We try not to look two or three days down the road, we just go for the day,” Bundy said. “I try to keep the guys focused on the moment and whatever happens tomorrow we’ll deal with it when we get there.”
He’s right. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get Elian Herrera back —
And have some real roster issues.
*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”
In a season that’s seen a handful of guys leave the ‘Topes, it feels good to have one back.
Especially when it’s Alex Castellanos.
Almost exactly a month to the day (April 24) since the utility fielder went on the DL with a left hamstring strain, Castellanos says everything is back 100 percent and he’s ready to suit up for the Isotopes.
“It feels good,” says Castellanos of his hamstring. “I’m still a little bit scared to push it, but I’ll get over it after I start playing a couple games.”
If anyone should be scared it’s opposing pitching. Before the injury, Castellanos ranked in the tops of nearly every offensive category including runs scored, triples, extra-base hits, total bases, walks, torn-up pitching charts, slugging percentage and opponent’s headaches.
He even led the PCL in hit by pitches (wonder if there’s a correlation).
When asked about what he’s looking to do in his return, Castellanos said, “Just right where I left off, just doing what I was doing.”
Better get the record books ready.
While on the Disabled List, Castellanos was slowly rehabbing his way back to Albuquerque in Extended Spring Training. His routine in Glendale AZ. was a little different than everyday professional baseball, and he said that all the down time can really wear on your mental composure.
“That whole month was tough,” says Castellanos. “Especially (when) I wake up early in the morning, get my stuff done, and then I have the whole day just to think.”
Think about what exactly?
What pose to strike after a clutch base hit? How fast to jog around the bases after a home run? What walk-up song really says Alex Castellanos is back?
Anything else in Extended Spring Training?
“I played about 10 games down there, got a couple at-bats, got a couple hits,” says Castellanos. “I think I hit a couple home runs, stuff like that.”
Jeez. How fast can we get this guy back in the box?
Unfortunately it’s unlikely that he’ll have a perfectly smooth transition back to Triple-A. Injuries like his can have a nagging, lingering effect, and it’s not something the infielder can just forget.
“I don’t really feel it (the injury),” says Castellanos. “But I’m just kind of scared to leg it out and have something happen. Just over time it’s going to have to get out of my head.”
Luckily he won’t have as much time to think about it anymore. With Castellanos penciled in the lineup tonight, the first time since April 24, he definitely has more important things on his mind.
“I want to get my timing back, see pitches, just things like that,” he says. “I’m just going to work my way up, little by little.”
“I just want to get back to the way I was playing.”
No need to think twice about that.