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Castellanos, Rojas confident they can join Phillies recent offensive success

CINCINNATI – Baseball is a game of streaks and slumps and, if you don’t believe it, just take a look around the Phillies’ clubhouse.

Over here is designated hitter Kyle Schwarber, who historically scuffles the first two months before the fireworks start in June. Over there is Trea Turner, who was hitting some 65 points below his career average into August before going on a tear last year.

At the moment, the team has centerfielder Johan Rojas showing signs of coming out of his funk and Nick Castellanos trying to do the same.

Yes, this is the same Nick Castellanos who struggled in 2022, his first full year with the Phils, rebounded to make the All-Star team last season and is now hitting .184 with a .452 OPS after going hitless in Tuesday night’s 8-1 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Castellanos was asked afterwards if being so streaky drives him nuts. “Of course it does,” he said. “Everything’s harder without results, man. Even bleeders that find holes, you’re helping the team. Results make everything easier. But I’m happy with my process right now.”

Manager Rob Thomson said he plans on continuing to write Castellanos into the lineup while he figures it out.

“It gives me confidence in myself to know that he has confidence in me to get out of it,” the rightfielder said. “Honestly, that’s all I can ask for, is to have the chance to go out and play and knowing that going out and doing the right things, the tide will turn. Just like it always has.

“It’s like a puzzle you’re continuously trying to solve. Just something to get the juices going and then, all of a sudden, next thing you know, you’re rolling. Last year I was pretty much worthless in the month of July. I’ve gone through stretches when I’m out of whack. Then all of a sudden it clicks. And everybody’s like, ‘Holy cow, what did you figure out?’ Nothing. It’s just baseball. the highs and lows.”

To be more precise, he batted .162 with a .492 in June, 2023. He also put up .351/.954 in May and .293/.860 in July. It’s enough to give a person vertigo.

Rojas was called up straight from Double-A Reading last year and, in addition to a Gold Glove caliber defense, batted .302 for the rest of the regular season. But after going 4-for-43 (.093) in the postseason, his ability to contribute enough offensively to justify his defense was called into question. And when he was batting .148 after his first 10 games, the calls for him to be sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley grew louder.

Since then, though, he’s 12-for-33 (.364). And he continues to catch just about everything that stays in the park. Tuesday night he made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Reds leftfielder Spencer Steer, then went down in a heap after bruising his hip on the metal fence post. He was able to stay in the game, though, and Thomson said he expects him to play Wednesday night.

Rojas credits hitting coach Kevin Long for his turnaround. . .with a big assist from Turner.

“Trea and I talked a couple things. He told me a couple things and I looked better and felt better as soon as we talked,” Rojas said through interpreter Diego D’Aniello. “He was watching me in the cage and he started talking to me about something I was working on. Basically, leg rotation first and then following up with swing. In a game, it’s all one motion. But in cage work you can break it down.

“It’s something I’ve been working on but the way he explained it was so good that right away I understood. He showed me videos of other players, then he put it in slow motion so I could see what he was talking about. He also used himself as an example of last year when he was struggling and showed that was one of the reasons he was struggling as well.

“It’s incredible. We’re surrounded by star players. And for a star player like Trea Turner to take his time to talk to me and help me, I feel really grateful, for that.”

Hitting, it seems, is a little like the weather. If a good hitter doesn’t like what he’s seeing, he has to be patient. Because it’s bound to change.