When Jason Castro signed a three-year, $24.5 million deal in November 2016, the move was considered one of the signature transactions in the new Derek Falvey-Thad Levine regime. Castro was a first-round pick out of Stanford in 2008 and an All-Star in 2013 known for his pitch framing. There was some backlash from traditionalists at the time of the signing, however, because he had hit .210 in the previous two seasons.
His .242/.333/.388 line from last season was his best since his All-Star year, and his approach to pitch framing stood in stark contrast with his predecessor. Kurt Suzuki was an All-Star in 2014 and had hit well with the Minnesota Twins (.263/.316/.364), but was a notoriously poor pitch framer who openly dismissed advanced stats.
“I still think that thing is false,” Suzuki told the Pioneer Press when asked about pitch framing in 2015. Conversely, it’s something that Castro has emphasized throughout this career. “The goal at the end of the day is to try to help your pitcher keep as many strikes as possible,” Castro said, “just to be almost as unrecognized as possible behind the plate to allow the pitcher’s work to speak for itself.”
Castro’s detractors surfaced once again when he got off to a .143/.257/.238 start. A knee injury he suffered a couple weeks ago might explain why. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday with a right meniscus tear. The injury was not caused by a single incident, but the cumulative effect of wear and tear on a knee that was previously injured in 2011.
“It’s been a thing I’ve been dealing with a couple weeks now,” he said before Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. “With some time off it felt like it was getting a little bit better, but the last few was pretty indicative that something was going on.”
He will get a cortisone shot, but does not think a surgical procedure is necessary and will remain with the team during the current road trip. To replace Castro, the Twins selected the contract of Triple-A catcher Bobby Wilson.
“He aggravated that knee injury last night to the point where we just can’t afford to play shorthanded here over the next handful of games,” said manager Paul Molitor. “[It’s a] combination of [needing a] backup catcher and the fact we have a couple of interleague games coming up Monday and Tuesday (against the St. Louis Cardinals).”
In order to make room for Wilson on the 40-man roster, Ervin Santana was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
“When you do the math on his outings…at most it’s a couple of days difference,” said Molitor, adding that he would have to be rushed back in a scenario where he would come back before he’s allowed to now that he’s on the 60-day disabled list. “I don’t have any hesitation to think that’s the right thing to do. I don’t really think it’s going to cost us. Realistically, if we do everything we want to do with him before he’s ready to pitch for us, it’s going to take him into that first week of June anyway.”
Molitor thought Castro tweaked his knee in his last at-bat in Friday’s game.
“I saw him take a check swing, half swing, and then he stepped out and I could see him kind of grab down there,” Molitor said, referring to Castro’s knee. “He tried to bend it, shake it out a couple of times. Checked on him when he came in, he said he was going to be able to get through the game.”
Castro said that it’s affected him more at the plate than it has behind it.
“The defensive side was where I felt it the least, surprisingly,” he said. “It’s just been something I’ve been trying to fight through. It’s at the point now where I should probably be smarter on it than anything else.”
Castro had surgery to repair his ACL and damaged meniscus in 2011, causing him to miss the entire season. He has injured his right knee multiple times since then.
“I’ve had a few [injuries],” he said. It’s all been on the same knee. It’s not something I haven’t gone through in the past.
“Initially it got a little better when I had some time off, but I’d say over the past week or so it’s actually gotten a little worse. That’s what prompted us to say let’s see what’s actually going on and figure out what the root is.”
It could be the residual effects of multiple knee injuries. It could be something new. Either way, it’s very possible that this lingering ailment is what has held him back offensively this year.
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