I don’t know if he’s just not reading these blogs or what, but Charlie Manuel is not rushing to quick, comically hostile conclusions like the rest of us.
“As the Phillies took batting practice Wednesday morning, Luis Castillo hopped in and out of the cage switching sides of the plate and even bats. For one round, he ran into the cage, and Jimmy Rollins tossed him one of this own bats to try.”
–Matt Gelb, Philadelphia Inquirer
So Luis Castillo
- Hops everywhere for some reason
- Doesn’t remember what side of the plate he hits from
- Can’t find a bat
- Doesn’t realize that using J-Roll’s bat means his swinging::missing ratio for breaking balls will be everytime::everytime.
Charlie strolled up to the batting cage, chewing on gum or part of a chair; it was hard to tell. Luis Castillo was currently spinning around while standing on home plate, while Mick Billimeyer stopped his pitching motion halfway through and looked on in squinty-eyed confusion.
“Now, Lu–I’m ‘onna call you Lu–what we’re looking for in a second baseman is a shit-ton of K’s,” Charlie said.
For a man who has claimed he only needs two minutes to size up a player’s entire skillset and mindset, it was widely assumed that Charlie would be less of a coach while monitoring Castillo’s “progress,” and more of a witness to the murder of baseball.
Strangely enough, after not showing up to camp because of the Phillies communicated at him wrong, Luis had offered a thunderous 0-for-4 performance highlighting his fielding of two routine groundballs, and still his 120 seconds were not up. Charlie had decided he needed to see more of the player, claiming that a “change of scenery” can be beneficial, citing Wilson Valdez and Jayson Werth as examples. Also, a change of careers can be beneficial, like with Pat Burrell, who after leaving Philadelphia decided to become a baseball player.
But, as Chase Utley watched from dugout, grinding his teeth into nubs, it was clear Castillo was going to get all the chances he needed to take his place.
“You’re being replaced,” Chase Utley’s knee muttered.
“I told you to shut up,” Chase replied. Kyle Kendrick, having finally worked up the nerve to approach Chase for an autograph, assumed he was talking to him and ran away in tears.
One of Castillo’s 0’s during his 0-for-4 day had been a sharp line drive that had been easily caught by the first baseman. Charlie had blamed the fact that the first baseman was standing there for the out, not Castillo himself. It was true, of course. To see the true effectiveness of an offensive dynamo like Luis Castillo requires most of the opposing fielders to not take the field, and the ones that do should be massively out of position; and it wouldn’t hurt if they were kids who had never played baseball before.
Having stopped spinning in a circle, Luis hopped back to whatever side of the plate he was going to hit from that day, which, as a switch hitter, should not have been a surprise to anyone. Nonetheless, Charlie found it endlessly amusing.
His coach’s laughter and clapping only fueled Chase’s brooding rage. He could be in the cages, too. Just yesterday, he’d made sure Charlie was watching while he took a few hacks.
“Chuck! Watch this! Are you watching?!” he yelled as the pitch came in.
Charlie had nodded and waved without turning away from his conversation with Sam Perlozzo about how awesome Luis Castillo looked.
“He doesn’t care about you,” Chase’s knee had hissed. “You’re old news. Very soon you’ll just be ‘Chase Utley, that former Phillies second baseman who wrote his own final act through the dives and slides of a reckless career.”
“I can’t hear you…” Chase whispered in reply.
“This your end, Utley.”
The outburst had been ill timed, as the pitch was coming in just as his fury reached its climax. He swung in tune with his raucous emotions and sent a 900 mph line drive down the third base line, where Roy Oswalt had just emerged and started stretching. He narrowly avoided having his brain sprayed out the back of his head and the ball continued screaming past him, not slowing down in the slightest, eventually striking Kyle Kendrick in the hip. Kyle would go on to love the bruise that formed like a child, giving it a name (“Chase, Jr.”) and celebrating its birthday every year, amidst a sea of perplexity and disgust amongst his teammates.
Roy Oswalt chuckled to himself, having once again come a hair’s breath from being explosively killed on a baseball field.
Charlie had recommended Chase just hang back and take it easy today, based on yesterday’s events. He was sequestered to the dugout, where he could do naught but stare enviously at the undeniable bond quickly fusing Charlie and Luis together.
“I want an opportunity,” Luis had said when joining the Phillies, echoing a similar statement he’d made while leaving New York, claiming the team hadn’t used him right. All of this sort of pointed to the notion that maybe Luis wasn’t positive what the word “opportunity” meant, or what exactly he was expected to do after being signed to a “baseball team.”
Regardless, Charlie’s initial confusion as to Luis’ delay in reporting to camp had subsided, and while they only had a few guaranteed days left together, it was clear they were going to get the most out of them.
“Hey, Chase, how’s it going,” Ryan Howard asked, patting his friend on the shoulder. “You know, we all heard you screaming in the shower, and it sounded like somebody was smashing a bat into the walls.”
Chase slowly turned and looked at the first baseman. “You got something you want to accuse me of, Ryan?”
Ryan flashed his trademark smile, immediately attracting the flash of a few dozen photographers, and backed away slowly, hands in the air. He knew better than to push the issue further. With Chase, it was always best to just let him know the team was aware of his problem, not that they were planning on fixing it for him.
About year ago, Chase had disappeared for an entire weekend and returned the following Monday, covered in dirt and carrying a box of crying kittens. He wordlessly dropped them by his locker and took a 45-minute shower. Even though everyone told him not to, Greg Dobbs had approached Chase to see if there was anything he could do to help, and returned in an inconsolable bout of tears, claiming Utely had “punched him in the soul.”
“Is this the end of Chaseward Cameron Utley?” his knee snarled.
“I told you, my full name isn’t ‘Chaseward.’ And when are you going to SHUT THE HELL UP.”
Looking back from the batting cages, the shouts caused Charlie Manuel to give his second baseman yet another concerned stare. Chase, realizing he’d finally gotten some attention, waved enthusiastically. Charlie pretended he didn’t see the gesture and turned back to Castillo, who took a mighty hack at a 60 mph pitch and almost fell to the ground, panting heavily.
From the ground, Chase swore he could have seen a demonic grin flash on the former Mets’ face, right into the dugout, as he stood back up and composed himself for another trademark Castillo at bat.
“Good cut,” Charlie said, the cool Clearwater breeze offering respite from the late morning sun. “Nice cut.”