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Padres Prospect Jose Castillo Stole the Show

The 21-year-old lefty stepped up on the biggest stage of his career.

World Baseball Classic - Pool D - Game 3 - Venezuela v Italy Photo by Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

In last night’s World Baseball Classic game between Venezuela and the United States, manager Omar Vizquel decided to put a 21-year-old kid on the mound against Christian Yelich and Nolan Arenado. What happened next was two of the most exciting outs of the tournament. Here’s the final pitch of the inning:

Jose Castillo was a footnote (along with Ryan Hanigan and Gerardo Reyes) in the three-team trade that brought Wil Myers to San Diego at the cost of Trea Turner, Joe Ross, Jake Bauers, Rene Rivera, and Burch Smith. Former Padres broadcaster Matt Vasgersian adeptly noted that Castillo’s bright future shouldn’t be lost in evaluating the oft-panned deal that brought the current “Face of the Franchise” to San Diego. Now 21 years old, Castillo has been recognized as a fast riser for the Padres who could potentially contribute at the MLB level as soon as this coming season.

He was added to Team Venezuela’s roster and registered a save in their matchup against Italy in Pool D action. In their game against Team USA last night, reliever Deolis Guerra had gotten himself into a jam. With Ian Kinsler and Adam Jones on base with only one out, Vizquel called on a 6’4” lefty who has never pitched above single-A to face an All-Star lineup.

His first opponent was left-handed hitter Christian Yelich. He retired Yelich with a well-earned strikeout, starting off with a fastball away and followed by four sliders, with Yelich fouling three of them off. Not only was the action on those pitches nasty, his command was placing the ball right where catcher Robinson Chirinos was asking for them. Vizquel made a visit to the mound as NL MVP Nolan Arenado approached the plate, but he left the lefty pitcher in to face the righty Arenado. Their seven-pitch battle was intense. Castillo started off with four fastballs, attacking Arenado on the inside part of the plate. Two sliders down and in were taken for balls, and then Castillo finished him off with a nasty changeup in the dirt, with Chirinos pointing down as Castillo was winding up.

Twitter lit up with praise for the kid’s stuff, his command, and his poise.

This is a young man who is relatively inexperienced. For Omar Vizquel to ask him to step on an MLB mound in front of thousands of fans and worldwide TV coverage, while playing for his nation and his All-Star teammates, and to face two of MLB’s best hitters, he certainly had a lot of pressure placed on his shoulders. He showed not only impressive stuff but excellent command of his pitches in a moment that required some serious cojones. He will be a player to keep an eye on for certain this season.