Minors Report: Hugo Castellanos

Minors Report: Hugo Castellanos

JUPITER, Fla. -- Hugo Castellanos' job is the furthest thing from glamorous, but big league meal money is big league meal money, so he'll keep doing it.

Castellanos has served as a "protection" pitcher for the Cardinals this spring, available whenever the club has needed to fill in some innings. He's rarely actually scheduled to pitch. Instead, he simply steps in when he's called.

"He's a security blanket," said pitching coach Dave Duncan. "He can throw every day. He's there. He said, 'I didn't see my name on any list.' I said, 'Put your spikes on every day and be out in the bullpen. If we need you, we'll use you.' You need somebody around like that, especially with guys that are down. He's a nice guy to have around."

Control problems have plagued Castellanos throughout his Minor League career, but the non-roster invitee is throwing strikes this spring. In 8 2/3 innings, he's fanned six and walked two.

"He's willing to do anything and everything," said manager Tony La Russa. "So he's on the list to protect, and at the same time, when he's pitched, it's not very comfortable -- especially for a right-hander."

The big sidearmer remains an extreme long shot to make the Cardinals, but he's still in camp -- something only 18 healthy pitchers can say.

Dove returns: A year after he was one of the spring's sensations, right-hander Dennis Dove is trying to work his way back to the big leagues. Dove underwent shoulder surgery last year, cutting short a season that saw him make his Major League debut.

Pitching for Triple-A Memphis, Dove worked a clean inning on Wednesday, striking out a batter. His velocity is well down from the high-90s gas he threw last year. However, according to director of Minor League operations John Vuch, Dove has no restrictions as he moves forward.

QC the place to be: Minor League Spring Training rosters tend to be pretty fluid, but in the early going, the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits figure to be one of the most intriguing teams to watch in the system.

First-round pick Pete Kozma, speedster and former draft-and-follow D'Marcus Ingram and Cuban signee Ryde Rodriguez all suited up for Quad Cities on Wednesday as Minor League Spring Training games began. Each had a bit of a rough day, as they went a combined 0-for-9, but all are players to watch.

Ingram, in particular, made things happen with his speed and on-base ability. He led off the game with a walk, stole second, took third on a Kozma grounder and came home to score without a Quad Cities hit in the inning.

Throwing gas: Right-hander Fernando Salas, who split last season between the Mexican League and the Florida State League, looked impressive in his debut. Salas has started and relieved in the Cardinals organization, though he was much more effective as a reliever last year.

In his '08 debut, Salas touched 96 mph on the radar gun and mixed in an impressive changeup, as well. The 22-year-old signed with the organization last spring.

On the move: Camp continues to get thinner, with the first round of 40-man roster players sent out. Cody Haerther, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Brian Barden, Mark Worrell and Blake Hawksworth, all roster players, have been optioned to the Minors this week.

Spring Training
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They're No. 1: Former supplemental first-rounder Mark McCormick has a long way to go, but at least he's healthy again. Injuries have limited the 43rd overall pick in the 2005 Draft to 28 appearances in his three-year professional career. However, the club believes he's good to go with no restrictions as the '08 season commences.

Class of '07: Remarkably, Clayton Mortensen is still in camp -- in itself a significant feat for a 2007 draftee. He's tentatively scheduled to get one more start, on Friday against the Dodgers in Vero Beach, Fla. The right-hander from Gonzaga is likely on as fast a track as any starter in the system.

What they're saying: "He's not excluded. Right now, do I 100 percent think he's ready to pitch in the Major Leagues? No, I don't. But I think he's close enough to be looked at under the circumstances that we're in." -- Duncan on Mike Parisi, who is contending for a starting rotation job

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.