03/23/07 12:18 AM ET
Casto trying to crack Nationals' lineup
But with options left, prospect expected to start in Triple-A
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
In his mind, Casto is still battling to win a Major League job, however, he realizes there is a good chance that he will start the season at Triple-A Columbus and be reunited with John Stearns, his manager at Double-A Harrisburg.
If it happens, the demotion will have nothing to do with Casto's abilities. He has shown why the Nationals named him the organization's Minor League Player of the Year the last two years. He is a patient hitter -- six walks and a .441 on-base percentage -- and solid with the glove.
It just so happens that outfielders Ryan Church and Chris Snelling are out of options and, although anything can happen in the final week, it's doubtful that the Nationals will put them on waivers and make room for Casto.
Forget about Casto playing third base, because the position belongs to Ryan Zimmerman for years to come.
There's also no chance of Casto being a reserve on the big club in 2007. Manager Manny Acta already told Casto he will be an everyday player in the Majors or Minor Leagues. With options left, Casto is the logical choice to be demoted.
"With everything that has happened, I think I've shown them I can play in the Major leagues," Casto said before Thursday's game against the Astros. "I will sit down and wait until it's my time and that's what I'm going to have to do. That's just part of the business side that a lot of people don't see. At least I've come here and shown them that I belong here, so when something does happen [later on], they can call on me."
Casto credits his success this spring to working out with his friends in Portland, Ore., and fine-tuning his skills in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. He also came to camp knowing he could ill-afford to get off to a slow start with the bat.
"I was physically and mentally ready to go because I knew I didn't have the leeway to have 20 bad at-bats," Casto said. "So I came with the mind-set of putting together the best at-bats that I can."
The Nationals are trying to make Casto as versatile as possible. Besides playing the outfield and third base, Casto has taken ground balls at first base on a regular basis the last two weeks. He didn't play his first game at the position until Thursday's 16-2 victory over the Astros. Casto made three putouts and one assist.
"That's one of those things that kind of happened," Casto said. "They know I can play all three outfield positions, maybe not as good in center defensively. I can play out there at third. So it gives me a lot of options."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.