Castro likely to miss season with knee injury
Astros catcher undergoes surgery for torn right ACL, meniscus
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The kick in the gut the Astros received late Thursday night, learning starting catcher and former first-round Draft pick Jason Castro would likely miss the entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, has put the team's catching situation in a haze.
With more than three weeks left before Opening Day, the Astros have plenty of time to try to bring in another catcher, as well as take a closer look at the catching options still in camp -- including veteran Humberto Quintero, J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan, a non-roster invitee.
"I think the first thing we have to do is evaluate the catchers we have in camp," Astros general manager Ed Wade said Friday. "We're fortunate to have J.R. and Quintero and Corporan who have big league experience. We've got [Rene] Garcia and [Brian] Esposito here. We'll evaluate what we've got, but as is always the case, if there's opportunity to do something to improve the club, we'll try to do that."
Castro underwent surgery Friday morning at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, where team medical director Dr. David Lintner repaired a large tear in the meniscus and reconstructed the ACL. Castro will spend the night in the hospital and begin rehab Monday in Houston. He's out until mid-September at the earliest and likely won't play this season.
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"The surgery went well," Wade said. "Dr. Lintner indicated that the meniscus tear was significant and actually took longer to repair than the ACL. We'll do everything we can to support Jason and make sure he gets all of our support."
The Astros will undoubtedly begin talking to other teams about possibly making a deal for a catcher and will closely watch the transactions wire when teams begin to pare rosters in the next week or so. The only free agent still looking for a job is Bengie Molina, but he's considering retirement and would be costly.
Another player to keep an eye on is Pirates backup catcher Ryan Doumit, who wants out of Pittsburgh. He's due to make $5.1 million this year, which means the Pirates would have to eat a significant chunk of his contract. Phillies backup catcher Brian Schneider could also be an option.
"I'm sure Ed and his staff are doing all kinds of considerations," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "We've talked about all kinds of things, but right now, we have these five guys in camp, and they're going to work and get the innings. Everything's going to be considered, no doubt."
Castro, the club's No. 1 pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, injured his knee stepping awkwardly on first base running out a ground ball in Wednesday's game against the Tigers. He was originally diagnosed with a medial meniscus tear and underwent an MRI on Thursday before flying home to Houston for further tests. Lintner examined the results late Thursday and told Wade that Castro also had a torn ACL.
"I feel bad for Jason, obviously," Wade said. "Millsie talked to him last night briefly after I called him to let him know what Dr. Lintner had to say. It goes without saying that Jason is going to be down about something like this. You just have to provide him support and we'll do everything to get him back at the appropriate time, and hopefully, this is the only setback he's got in what turns out to be a long big league career."
Mills was at dinner with his wife Thursday when he got a text message from Wade informing him of Castro's injury. Mills immediately phoned the catcher.
"I really felt bad for him," Mills said. "I told him that he had worked so hard during the offseason, preparing and getting ready for this season and he was going to have a great year. I said, 'You know, Jason, you're going to have a great year next year.'"
So what now?
The strong-armed Quintero was slated as the club's backup this year after hitting .234 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 265 at-bats last season. He's still best suited as a backup at this point in his career, but could see increased playing time.
"I don't know how many times [a week] I'm going to catch," Quintero said. "The opportunity Brad Mills gives to me, I'm going to take it and try to do the best for the team."
Towles, the former top prospect, is trying to re-establish himself following a lost 2010 season in which he made the Opening Day roster, only to be sent to Double-A Corpus Christi and eventually miss most of the year with a torn thumb ligament. Towles was going to see some action at first, third and the outfield this spring, but he's back to focusing on catching.
Then there's Corporan, a 27-year-old switch-hitter who got a hit in his only Major League at-bat in 2009 with Milwaukee. He was signed to play at Triple-A this year and be available to the Major League club in case of an emergency.
He was with Milwaukee from 2003-09 and Arizona last year. In 592 career Minor League games, he's hitting .251 with 109 doubles, 39 homers and 250 RBIs. He batted .290 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs last year at Triple-A Reno.
"Every player dreams about making the Opening Day roster," Corporan said. "That would be huge. I've been working all my life for that and waiting for an opportunity. It would be a dream come true. If an opportunity shows up, I'm going take advantage of it."
Mills is prepared to see what Quintero, Corporan, Towles and others have to offer while Wade and his staff work the phones.
"Right now, as a manager and a coaching staff, we're going to deal with these five guys we have in camp and go from there," Mills said.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.