The Colorado Rockies get a chance to look at a future prospect while honoring one of their greatest players on Sunday.
Vinny Castilla makes what will likely be his final start at third base for the Rockies and highly-touted starter Juan Morillo makes his major league debut in the finale of a three-game set with the Atlanta Braves at Coors Field.
“Just a big ‘Love for Vinny’ weekend about to unfold,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “Anybody who wants to come out, say hello, say good-bye, throw him some love because he’s going to be in the starting lineup Sunday.”
Castilla was a key part of the Rockies’ 1995 squad that made the playoffs in the franchise’s third season. They were eliminated in four games by the Braves in the NL divisional series that year, which still stands as the club’s only appearance in postseason play.
The 16-year veteran, who is expected to retire after the season, makes his final start at the venue where he enjoyed his greatest success. Castilla’s career batting average is .333 at Coors Field, compared with .254 at all other major league ballparks. He hit 132 homers at Coors, and no more than 16 at any other park.
The third baseman has 320 career homers and 1,104 RBIs in his major league career, including nine seasons with the Rockies (1993-99, 2004, 2006). He is third on the team’s career home run list with 239 and fourth with 744 RBIs.
He led the NL with 131 RBIs in 2004 after spending two seasons with Atlanta — the club he came up with in 1991 and 1992.
Sunday’s start will be Castilla’s second since returning to the Rockies— who signed him to a minor league contract after San Diego released him—on Sept. 1.
His likely final start will coincide with Morillo’s first. The 22-year-old right-hander is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Rockies’ system.
The Dominican Republic native finished his season with Double-A Tulsa 12-8 with a 4.62 ERA. He has been working through control issues, as he recorded 132 strikeouts and 80 walks in 140 1-3 innings over 27 starts.
The Braves (75-80), meanwhile, will give rookie Chuck James (10-4, 3.62 ERA) a chance to rebound from his last outing.
The left-hander suffered his first loss in eight starts on Tuesday, when he gave up five runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-2 loss to Washington.
“I could tell that I didn’t have my command I usually have,” James said. “I was hoping I could work thorough it and bounce back from it. It just kept on getting worse as the game went on.”
The loss was the his first since Aug. 4, and snapped a personal six-game winning streak.
He makes his first start against Colorado Sunday, after facing them only once in relief on Sept. 28, 2005, when he yielded one run and one hit in two innings.
The Braves lost 10-9 to the Rockies (73-82) Saturday to put themselves on the brink of official elimination from the wild-card race.
They are 6 1/2 games behind wild card-leading Philadelphia with seven games remaining.
Barring a miraculous comeback, the Braves will end their major league record 14 consecutive seasons in postseason play.