June 25, 2024

Nick Castellanos has faced this challenging situation before, where finding a solution feels daunting one moment and then suddenly, it clicks. Reflecting on Tuesday night’s 8-1 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park, he mentioned the need for a spark to reignite his momentum. Despite going 0-for-4 in the game, Castellanos wasn’t the primary reason for the Phillies snapping a seven-game winning streak.

Issues like Cristopher Sánchez struggling with his changeup, resulting in a season-low three innings pitched, and errors by the Phillies contributing to unearned runs, played a significant role in the outcome. Additionally, the bottom three hitters in the Phillies’ lineup walked to load the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning, but the top three hitters failed to capitalize, leading to a missed opportunity.

Castellanos stands out particularly at this early stage of the season, as he’s currently batting .184 with one triple, seven RBIs, and a .452 OPS across 94 plate appearances. This places him among the bottom five in OPS out of 184 qualified hitters in baseball.

Nick Castellanos Gets a Helping Hand From Jean-Michel Basquiat - Sports  Illustrated

“Without results, everything feels tougher,” Castellanos acknowledged. “Even those hits that barely make it through and help the team. They get you on base. Results just make everything smoother. But I’m satisfied with my approach right now.”

His triple against the White Sox on Saturday marked his sole extra-base hit of the season so far, and his beaming expression rounding third base spoke volumes about his relief and satisfaction.

“I feel like my swing has become much more consistent since then,” he explained. “Since St. Louis, I’ve been focusing more on thinking less. Just sticking to the same approach and working on the same key points.”

And what are those key points?

“Same stance, same keys,” he replied. “Not overthinking, just staying positive. That’s pretty much my focus right now.”

In his last four games, Castellanos has managed five hits in 15 at-bats. Perhaps this signals the beginning of a turnaround, although nobody can say for sure just yet.

But until he emerges from this slump, he finds comfort in the fact that he’s navigated similar rough patches in the past.

“Last year, I was pretty much struggling throughout July,” he recalled. “You know? I’ve had stretches where things just weren’t clicking. Then suddenly, it all falls into place. People ask, ‘What did you change?’ Nothing. It’s just baseball. The ups and downs.”

In July 2023, Castellanos posted a dismal .403 OPS in 104 plate appearances, only to rebound with an .840 OPS in his next 105 plate appearances. Similarly, in May and June 2015 with the Tigers, he struggled with a .421 OPS in 86 plate appearances, followed by a stellar .960 OPS in his next 85.

“He’s not performing at his usual level, but I’ve seen him overcome this before,” remarked Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. “I firmly believe in his track record. I mean, he hit 29 homers with 106 RBIs last season. You don’t just lose that overnight. And he’s not too old. It’s not like he’s suddenly aged from 30 to 42. So, yes, he’s struggling, and that’s concerning, but I have faith he’ll bounce back.”

Despite the suggestion, Phillies manager Rob Thomson has consistently opted to keep Castellanos in the lineup, believing that persistence will eventually pay off.

Thomson’s consistent approach of allowing Castellanos to play through his slump has instilled a sense of confidence in the player himself.

“It’s reassuring to know that he trusts me to work through this rough patch,” Castellanos expressed. “Ultimately, that’s all I can ask for — the opportunity to go out there and compete. I believe that by continuing to play the game the right way, things will eventually turn around, as they always have.”

But could taking a break from the lineup provide a beneficial reset? Even the most accomplished athletes occasionally benefit from a day off.

“I’m not sure,” Castellanos pondered. “As a competitor, I relish the challenge of a 162-game season. It’s something I’ve yet to experience fully, and I would love the opportunity to do so. Ultimately, it’s up to the manager. Physically, I’m in excellent shape, and my body feels great. Now, it’s just a matter of finding that rhythm. A couple of hits to drop, some positive energy, and suddenly baseball feels like a game again, rather than a puzzle I’m constantly trying to solve.”

For Phillies' Nick Castellanos, comfort is measured in deep thoughts and an  All-Star bid - The Athletic

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