A strong late-season stint with the Chicago Cubs in 2019 helped Nick Castellanos earn a nice contract with the Cincinnati Reds this year.
Castellanos faces his former team when the Reds open a four-game home series against the Cubs on Monday night.
After six-plus seasons in Detroit, Castellanos hit .321 with 16 home runs, 21 doubles and 36 RBIs over 51 games after being dealt to the Cubs last season. While there was a slim chance Chicago (2-1) would bring Castellanos back for 2020, it turned out the lure of a four-year, $64 million deal from the Reds was too good to pass up.
Though Cincinnati (1-2), looks to avoid a third straight defeat after dropping two of three in its opening home series to Detroit, Castellanos has been relatively solid, going 3-for-10 with an RBI.
“He’s here to be the best player he can be and to win,” manager David Bell told the Reds’ official website. “What more can you ask?”
They can ask Castellanos to help the club get back on track, even without the services of Mike Moustakas. Cincinnati’s other key offseason pickup, Moustakas went 4-for-8 with a homer and four RBIs in his first two games as a Red before being placed on the injured list Sunday after waking up ill. It’s uncertain if he tested positive for COVID-19.
After breaking out for seven runs in their season-opening win, the Reds have totaled six in their two losses. They also struck out 13 times in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Tigers.
Castellanos, though, is 7-for-12 with three homers, a double and eight RBIs against scheduled Chicago starter Jon Lester. No longer the Cubs’ No. 1 hurler, Lester is still eager to take the mound after his club took two of three from Milwaukee at home.
“He’s prepped and locked in when he steps on the mound,” first-year Cubs manager David Ross told the club’s official website about the 36-year-old Lester, who has won 190 career games and made at least 31 starts in 12 consecutive seasons.
“His resume speaks for itself, of what he’s done. But outside of what he’s done on the field, I think he’s influenced this organization as a whole in a really good way.”
The left-hander went 13-10 with a 4.46 ERA in 31 starts last season. That included an 0-1 mark and a 4.02 ERA in three starts against the Reds.
Lester looks to follow in the path of Kyle Hendricks on Friday and Tyler Chatwood from Sunday. The pair combined for one run allowed over 15 innings in the Cubs’ two victories.
What the Cubs now need is for Kris Bryant to get untracked after going 1-for-14 with six strikeouts in the opening series. Bryant, though, is batting .333 with seven RBIs in his last 15 games at Cincinnati. He’s also 6-for-14 with a homer off scheduled Cincinnati starter Wade Miley.
The veteran left-hander has been solid against the Cubs during his career, going 6-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 10 career starts. He’s 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA versus Chicago over the last two seasons. Miley now will make his Reds’ debut after posting a resurgent 14-6 mark and 3.98 ERA over 33 starts with Houston in 2019.
Miley’s new teammate Joey Votto is 5-for-13 with two homers and three RBIs in 2020.
The Cubs and Reds combined for 11 homers through the first weekend of this shortened 2020 campaign.
–Field Level Media