Infield Duo Earns Rave Reviews

May 20, 2001|By David O'Brien Staff Writer

The Marlins have led the majors in double plays for most of the season, and the increasingly spectacular middle-infield duo of shortstop Alex Gonzalez and second baseman Luis Castillo is drawing attention.

"It's like watching the Harlem Globetrotters out there every night," Colorado Rockies third-base coach Rich Donnelly said. "These two guys, as a combination, are as talented as I've ever seen in 20 years in the majors. I'm talking everything -- range, quickness, arm, feet. Talent-wise, they're as good as I've seen."

Marlins infield coach Tony Taylor, 65, was an All-Star second baseman with the Phillies in 1960. Taylor had more than 2,000 hits in a 19-year career in the majors. He says he never saw a better defensive middle-infield combination than Gonzalez, 24, and Castillo, 25.

He compares them to the standard-bearers of this, and perhaps any, generation -- the silky smooth Cleveland Indians duo of shortstop Omar Vizquel, 35, and second baseman Roberto Alomar, 33.

Between them, Vizquel and Alomar have 17 Gold Glove awards. Castillo and Gonzalez have none.

"These two guys are doing some unbelievable things, and they can be the best in the game," Taylor said of Castillo, who led major league second baseman with 38 double plays before Saturday, and Gonzalez, who was second among National League shortstops with 32. The Marlins led the majors with 52 double plays.

Taylor finds it difficult to contain his enthusiasm, particularly after recent plays by Gonzalez, who has perfected the one-knee pop-up-slide-and-throw from his right. He has also made some spin-and-throw plays behind second base.

Thursday against San Francisco, Gonzalez fielded a ball while tumbling to his left, sprung up and made a strong off-balance throw from 10 feet in the outfield.

"I've seen a lot of great shortstops, and a lot of great plays," Taylor said. "But that play, I haven't seen many who could make that play. I don't care if it's Vizquel or whoever. I watch these two guys and I get more impressed every day.

"Alomar and Vizquel are the best, but these guys are right behind them. At this stage of their career, they're better. I've seen great second basemen and shortstops, but not in the same infield, like Vizquel and Alomar, or Castillo and Gonzalez."

He might get some argument in Cincinnati, which has former three-time Gold Glove shortstop Barry Larkin, 37, and Gold Glove second baseman Pokey Reese, 27. "Cincinnati has a great shortstop," Taylor said, "and Pokey Reese is a pretty good second baseman, but he's not close to Luis Castillo."

Castillo knows the defensive knock on him and Gonzalez is that, while they make the sensational plays look easy, they make some easy ones into adventures. Lapses in concentration lead to careless errors.

"We still have room to improve," Castillo said. "A lot of people say we are the best in the business. I don't consider myself the best. I need to get better on routine plays. Those are the ones you have to make."

A.J. GETS EMOTIONAL

One week after he threw his no-hitter, A.J. Burnett's joy spilled forth again, along with a few tears, when he was honored on the field during a presentation before the game against Colorado. As the right-hander spoke to the crowd over the public-address system, Burnett had to pause briefly and wipe his face on his uniform sleeve.

"We've got a great group of guys," said Burnett, who earlier thanked catcher Charles Johnson and the entire defense for their efforts, "and to be able to pitch in front of them every five days is an honor."

Burnett, 24, was accompanied on the field by his wife, Karen, and their infant son, Allan James II. As he walked onto the field amid cheers from the crowd of 23,132, Burnett held in his arms his son, whom he calls "Deuce."

At one point during the presentation, Burnett held his son aloft as the crowd gave the pitcher another ovation. The Marlins presented Burnett with a trophy commemorating the third no-hitter in franchise history. While Burnett was speaking, Karen held a flower arrangement the team gave her. Meanwhile, Marlins owner John Henry, seated next to her, held the Burnetts' son.

In the stands behind home plate, Burnett's parents and brother watched, also having a difficult time holding in their emotions. The Marlins flew them to South Florida for the weekend series.

C.J. gets a rest

Johnson will get a two-day respite today and Monday as Mike Redmond gets his first back-to-back starts of the season. Johnson will provide manager John Boles with a potent pinch-hitter, as Johnson showed with his pinch grand slam Sunday at San Diego.

Boles reasoned the timing was right for a rest for two reasons: Redmond's success against Mike Hampton and especially against Atlanta's Tom Glavine, and the busy chunk of the schedule that will have Johnson catching 11 games in the next 12 days.

Redmond is 5 for 10 against the left-hander Hampton, who goes into today's series finale for Colorado. His work against Glavine, Monday's starter, is practically surreal. Redmond is 16 for 25 (.640) with a homer against Glavine, the best average anybody has posted in more than 20 at-bats against the lefty.

Source : http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2001-05-20/sports/0105200274_1_gold-glove-luis-castillo-infield

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