Posted February 23, 2012 on
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(Eds: With AP Photos.) As bad as last season was for the Houston Astros, it was worse for Jason Castro.
The season never really happened for the team's standout young catcher, who tore his right ACL during the second exhibition game a year ago. He had reconstructive surgery March 4 and spent the entire season rehabbing the knee.
''You can't take anything for granted. That's definitely something you learn from something like this, and how quickly it can be taken away from you,'' Castro said. ''Realizing that all it takes is one play is something that makes you appreciate it more.''
The 24-year-old Castro had surgery on his left foot in December, but he has been moving well in the early days of spring training with no visible signs of an injury.
''Given the circumstances and the way things are playing out, I'm happy with where I'm at,'' he said. ''The rehab process went as good as I could have hoped for.''
Six weeks before opening day, the Astros are playing his return cautiously.
''Nothing is hindering him as far as pain or stiffness or soreness or anything else, but because he missed a whole year, we're going to monitor him and make sure he's not trying to overdo it,'' said manager Brad Mills. ''He's doing all the drills, but maybe not to the extent or as long as the other catchers.''
A first-round draft choice in 2008, Castro earned the Astros' regular catching job as a 22-year-old rookie in 2010. He was part of a young group of players who gave the Astros some hope in the second half of that season.
There was no such hope last year with Castro in a cast.
He was injured during the second game of spring training while trying to avoid a tag by Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. The original diagnosis was a sprain, but an MRI revealed a meniscus tear in his right knee. A torn ACL was discovered later and operated on immediately.
As he rehabbed, the Astros went on to lose 106 games.
''We all saw how this ballclub played when he took over in 2010 as a rookie, how this guy took charge of our pitching staff. It was such a crushing blow last year to not get a game out of him,'' Mills said.
New general manager Jeff Luhnow said Castro is ''critical'' to the team's future.
''He's somebody who can be a leader and who can produce offensively and defensively and set the right tone for the entire team,'' he said.
By the end of 2011, the young catcher had gained confidence that his knee had recovered completely.
''I think a big part of that was playing in Arizona (in the fall league) and testing it out there,'' he said. ''I was able to get past all the questions I had about how it would respond and how it would hold up. The strength is there and the comfortability is definitely coming back.''
As for the recovery of the Astros, that will take more time.
''I was around the field a lot last year. Even though I wasn't catching guys, I was watching them pitch,'' Castro said. ''I was talking to guys after their starts and things like that. As far as talking to pitchers and building that rapport, that never stopped. So hopefully we can just jump back into things and keep progressing on into the season.''
BEST OF MAXIM
Last year in this space I bashed the now former columnist for the Houston Chronicle Richard Justice for creating a false narrative in regard to the supposed youth movement the Astros were about to field. Justice had been arguing that the 2011 season was all about the performance of three young players, namely Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson, and Jason Castro. If this was all the season...
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By Mark Mitchell
The theme of the Houston Astros spring training is competition, and one of the most contested battles is who will emerge to earn spots in the starting pitching rotation.
With Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Bud Norris assured -- use that word cautiously with this team - the first three spots in the rotation, a variety of candidates are vying...
Astros third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who has been in camp several days already, doesn't plan to swing a bat until the first official full-squad workout on Sunday. Paredes injured his left wrist in January while playing in the Dominican and has been getting treatment.
Three days into spring camp, veteran catcher and Houston native Chris Snyder couldn't be feeling better. Snyder is coming off back surgery that forced him to miss the final 3 1/2 months of the season, but he said his back feels great.
Kyle Weiland, acquired by the Astros on Dec. 14 along with Jed Lowrie in exchange for pitcher Mark Melancon, find himself among a group of promising young arms trying to crack the Astros' rotation.
Astros left-handed relief pitcher Sergio Escalona, who hyperextended his left elbow swinging a bat earlier in the week, skipped his third scheduled bullpen session Friday morning as a precaution. He will be reevaluated Saturday.
Minor League pitching coordinator Jon Matlack took some extra time following workouts Friday to have a one-on-one, hands-on session with 21-year-old right-hander Jordan Lyles on one of the pitching mounds.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie grew to appreciate nature, and a developing passion for photography prompted him and his new bride, Milessa Muchmore-Lowrie, to take a two-week African safari honeymoon to Tanzania following their marriage last November.
Jason Castro remains the Astros' catcher of the future, and he came to Spring Training in good health and with plenty left to prove. Despite losing a year to injury in his young career, Castro is thankful to be back on the field and back in his element.
Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez had to cut short his bullpen session Wednesday, when he felt some tightness in his lower back. He told the team's athletic trainers and manager Brad Mills it wasn't anything to be concerned about.
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The candidates come in all shapes, sizes and ages. From the robust 15-year veteran Livan Hernandez, to the tall, slender 21-year-old Jordan Lyles, the Astros have made sure to create a wealth of competition for their starting pitching rotation.