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Twins See Catcher Castro as ‘Framer’

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April 4, 2017

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Among the terms heard in Major League Baseball these days is “framing pitches.” Twins fans likely will hear the phrase used a lot this season when media talk about catcher Jason Castro.

The 29-year-old was acquired during the offseason with the hope he can help a struggling pitching staff. Castro’s skill for “framing” is supposed to help Twins pitchers receive more called strikes from umpires. He has a knack for positioning his glove so pitches look more like strikes.

Castro was the Astros regular catcher the four previous seasons, and he gained a reputation for his glove work framing pitches and being among the best in the majors at his craft. “He is one of those ones near the top of the list,” said former big leaguer Roy Smalley, now a Twins TV analyst. “That can be really, really significant when you think about how important counts are to hitters.

“For example, on a 1-1 pitch it’s a huge deal what the umpire calls on a close pitch, whether it’s 2-1, or 1-2. Huge difference on a 2-1 pitch whether it goes to 3-1, or 2-2. Those kinds of things happen five or six times in a ballgame. It can mean the difference between winning or losing a ballgame.”

Castro, signed as a free agent, replaces last year’s starting catcher Kurt Suzuki who the Twins apparently didn’t want back. That’s a savvy move, according to an online story Sunday by Sports Illustrated. The article said analysis from Baseball Prospectus showed Castro was third in the majors (+16 runs) in framing pitches last season, while Suzuki was seven runs below average. For the past three seasons Castro is a plus 37, Suzuki a minus 32, the story said. That translates to 2.3 more wins per season.

Castro, who hit .210 last year, had two hits and two RBI in yesterday’s 7-1 season opening win against the Royals at Target Field.  He also helped starting pitcher Ervin Santana hold the Royals to one run on two hits.

In his last 10 starts at Target Field, Santana is 5-3 with a 2.42 ERA.

Worth Noting

John Anderson

The Gophers baseball team opens its 2017 Siebert Field schedule tonight in a 6:30 p.m. game against North Dakota State. The Gophers and head coach John Anderson are 18-8 overall and 6-0 in Big Ten games. Sports Headliners reader Steve Hunegs notes that while the Gophers have had three different head football coaches in the last three years, Minnesota’s baseball program has three since 1948.

A Gophers athletic department source emailed that the 2017 salary pool for football assistant coaches is $3.1 million, compared with about $2.9 million last year. The top paid assistants are offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and defensive coordinator Robb Smith, who each earn $700,000. P.J. Fleck, who was named head coach January 6, reportedly makes $3.5 million and is the highest paid Gophers football coach ever.

Newly signed Vikings reserve quarterback Case Keenum was a teammate of Minnesota starter Sam Bradford when the two played for the Rams in St. Louis in 2014.

Legendary ex-Vikings coach Bud Grant, who turns 90 on May 20, holds his annual garage sale at his Bloomington home May 17-19. “This will be his latest, last garage sale,” son Mike Grant told Sports Headliners with a smile.

Area resident and Sun Country executive Eric Curry didn’t officiate last night’s NCAA title game between North Carolina and Gonzaga, but he had another busy basketball season working games in various parts of the country. Curry’s assignments included the Armed Forces Classic at Pearl Harbor, the Mountain West Conference championship game and three rounds in the NCAA Tournament. He estimates flying more than 100,000 miles over a five month stretch.

Minnesota philanthropist Wayne Kostroski will help debut Taste of the Master Chefs in Augusta, Georgia on Friday. Kostroski, of course, is founder of Taste of the NFL (“the party with a purpose”) that has raised millions to fight hunger in the United States. The new event in the hometown of the Masters Golf Tournament will benefit the Salvation Army of Augusta.

“…My incentive has been that with all of the high-end parties and corporate hospitality during Masters week, I did not see one event that was geared to provide dollars and/or relief to local families in the Augusta area,” Kostroski wrote in an email.

Former Gophers football coach Lou Holtz is an avid golfer and has been a member of Augusta National Golf Club for almost 15 years. Holtz turned 80 in January and still plays the legendary course.

Holtz, who once was an assistant coach at Ohio State, joins Nike founder Phil Knight as guest coaches April 15 for the Buckeyes annual spring football game.

Michele Tafoya, the sideline reporter on NBC TV’s Sunday Night Football who lives in suburban Minneapolis, speaks to the CORES lunch group Thursday, May 11 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. More information is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, dotseth@comcast.net.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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