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Luis Castillo to start for Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day

It’ll be the first such honor for the fireballin’ righty.

MLB: Spring Training-San Diego Padres at Cincinnati Reds Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

There was no single bigger mandate for the Cincinnati Reds this winter than to ‘get the pitching,’ based obviously on that collective unit’s failures over the first few years of the massive rebuild. That landed them Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, and Alex Wood, among others, high-profile names that should conceivably help the Reds climb out of the NL Central cellar for the first time in a long time.

Come Opening Day, though, none of those new names will be taking the mound first for the Reds. On Tuesday evening, they revealed that talented righty Luis Castillo will start for them in the season’s first game.

Given the huge roster overhaul we’ve seen the Reds endure during their rebuild, it’s easy to forget that Castillo, too, was a piece brought in from outside the organization to help bolster both the present and future. So far, he’s flashed easily the best overall stuff of any starter in the system, too, pitching to a 3.89 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 259 IP for the Reds since coming over from the Florida Marlins as the headliner in the Dan Straily trade.

His sophomore season didn’t start out as well as his fabulous rookie year, of course, but he did dial it in once the cold weather went away, pitching to a 2.63 ERA over his final 14 starts (83 IP). If that’s what the Reds are getting in 2019 - his rough spring numbers be damned - that’s every bit worthy of sitting atop the team’s rotation, which is pretty much what the Opening Day endorsement is.

The Reds added that Gray, Roark, and Anthony DeSclafani will follow Castillo’s Opening Day start, which a) signals the forearm stiffness Gray dealt with early in the spring is firmly a thing of the past, b) guarantees Gray will start for Red Reporter’s Game Two outing (WOOO!), and c) somewhat skirts whether Tyler Mahle will actually start the fifth game of the season with Alex Wood set to begin the year on the 10-day IL. Odds are we’ll see Mahle in that role at some point in early April, but the early off-days might well make it a bit of a jumble through the first few weeks of the season.

Congrats to Castillo, of course, as he’ll stake a rightful claim to making the first start of what could well be a memorable Reds season.