Sunday, March 2, 2014


Juan Castillo was signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela on May 2, 1988. The 18-year old right-hander would pitch five seasons at Class-A level before becoming a bone fide prospect in 1992.  That season he would post a 1.83 ERA over his final 12 starts with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. The performance earned him a promotion to Double-A Binghamton for 1993.

Castillo was summoned from Binghamton to New York on July 26, 1994. Starting pitcher Pete Smith was suffering shoulder stiffness and had been placed on the 15-day disabled list. The scenario set up Juan's major league debut later that night. Castillo was the starting pitcher at Busch Stadium and lasted five innings facing the St. Louis Cardinals. He worked methodically allowing only one hit per inning through the first four frames. The Cards gathered two hits in the fifth, and Todd Zeile would end Juan's night with a three-run home run to right off a high fastball. Castillo earned a no-decision when the Mets rallied to win the game 10-9 in extra innings.

Juan would get one more start before being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on August 2, 1994. He finished his major league time with a 6.94 ERA in 11.2 innings over those two appearances. Major League Baseball began their most infamous work stoppage on August 12th of that year. The entire season was lost and the World Series cancelled. When things became apparent there was to be no quick resolution teams began to send their players to foreign countries to play winter baseball there. "It's been a little more difficult this year because a lot of Latin-American teams are waiting to see if they can get some of the major league-caliber baseball players to play there because of the strike," said Steve Phillips, the director of minor league operations in 1994. Juan was assigned to pitch in Venezuela along with teammate Edgardo Alfonzo.

Baseball returned once the strike was concluded on April 2, 1995. Starting pitcher, Pete Harnisch had been acquired  during that strike in a trade with the Houston Astros on November 28, 1994. The New York Mets sent Juan Castillo as the player to be named later in that deal on April 12th. He would remain in the Astros minor league system until retiring in 1996.

I created Juan Castillo's card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my friend Jessie Burke in December 2013.


  1. Hi Lee,

    Great to see some more custom cut autographs added to the incredible collection. I hope all is well.

    I'm anxiously awaiting the day when you hit 90% completion.....a magical number in the collecting world if you ask me.

    Keep it up!

  2. Thanks! I think we will hit that 90% number pretty quickly. Stay tuned....