This ‘Phillies 50’ series highlights the careers of one position player and one pitcher from each of the teams stretching back over the half-century that I have followed the club from 1971 through the present day.
If you turn over the back of a Braulio Castillo baseball card or look up his record on the web you will find that he actually appeared in 28 games during not one, but two different seasons with the Phillies. He not only received the 53 plate appearances that get him into this series in 1991, but then received another 81 in 1992 over that same number of games.
Castillo was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent out of his native Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in October 1985. He would appear in parts of five seasons in the Dodgers’s farm system.
In 1989 at age 21 while playing with High-A Bakersfield, Castillo broke out, hitting .298 with career highs of 18 homers, 82 RBIs, 83 runs scored, and 31 stolen bases. That performance put him on the map as a prospect.
However, he regressed to hit just .228 with three homers and 11 steals while playing for Double-A San Antonio in the 1990 season. Returning to San Antonio in 1991, Castillo found his footing. He was hitting .300 with 30 extra-base hits and 22 steals when he was included in a trade deadline deal between the Dodgers and Phillies. In that deal, he and 29-year-old pitcher Mike Hartley went east in exchange for veteran reliever Roger McDowell.
The Phillies were floundering at the time 16 games below the .500 mark in last place, 18.5 games out of first in the National League East Division race.
However, they had won two straight at the beginning of what would stretch out to a 13-game winning streak. From July 30 onward the club would go 38-26 under new manager Jim Fregosi, who had taken over from Nick Leyva just three weeks into the season.
Those 1991 Phillies had a fairly set outfield group that included Lenny Dykstra in center field flanked by veterans Dale Murphy in right and Von Hayes in left, with young Wes Chamberlain seeing plenty of time as well.
In May, Dykstra was lost for more than two months, not returning until after the MLB All-Star break after he and catcher Darren Daulton were both severely injured in a DUI auto accident while Dykstra was driving the pair home from first baseman John Kruk‘s bachelor party.
Castillo meanwhile had caught fire after the trade. Sent by the Phillies to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, he was hitting .350 with 10 extra-base hits over 16 games when the organization decided it was time to give him his first big-league opportunity.
On August 18, 1991 with the Phillies wrapping up a week-long road trip in a Sunday afternoon contest against the host Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Castillo was entered into the starting lineup batting leadoff in center field by Fregosi, giving Dykstra a day off.
Castillo worked a walk off Cubs’ starter Danny Jackson that day. Randy Ready followed with another walk, and then Chamberlain blasted a three-run homer out to deep center field. The Phillies had a three-run lead that would stretch to 4-1 in the 2nd inning. However, the hosts would ultimately walkoff with this one in 10 innings by a 7-6 score.
Castillo would be gone by then, however, replaced by Kruk as pinch-hitter in the top of the 9th inning as the Phillies rallied for a pair of runs to tie it up.
But before leaving the game, Castillo would enjoy a memorable moment. Leading off the top of the 7th inning against reliever Les Lancaster, Castillo lined a single past shortstop for his first big-league base hit. Unfortunately he would be immediately wiped off the bases. Ready struck out on a 3-2 pitch with Castillo running, and the was gunned down by Chicago catcher Rick Wilkins.
Castillo remained with the big club for the rest of that 1991 season and made 14 starts among his 28 game appearances, most of those giving Dykstra a breather in center field.
The Phillies went 15-3 during the 18 games in which he appeared in September, a fact likely not lost on Fregosi. It was probably one that kept him in the lineup despite slashing at a feeble .173/.189/.231 mark.
Returning to Triple-A in 1992, Castillo was promoted and saw his first Phillies action incredibly on the exact same date, August 18, as he had in 1991. He would slash just .197/.238/.342, however, over what would be his final 28 appearances at the MLB level.
In November of 1992, Major League Baseball held an Expansion Draft to stock the new Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies franchise rosters. Left unprotected, Castillo was selected by the Rockies as the 70th overall pick.
The following May, Castillo was dealt to the Houston Astros and remained with the Houston organization through 1994, but he would never appear in the big-leagues.
Castillo opted to play in the Mexican League in both 1995 and 1996 and then ended his playing career at age 28 – for awhile.
In 2006, Castillo decided to make a brief comeback when he surfaced once again playing 88 games of independent ball split evenly with 43 at Reno in the American Association and 45 at Rio Grand Valley in United League Baseball. He hit a combined .307 with 14 home runs, 43 extra-base hits, and 60 RBIs combined, finally getting the itch to play out of his system.
Castillo remains involved in the game, working in recent years with young players back in the Dominican Republic.