LAKELAND, Fla. -- So far, the offensive numbers on Nick Castellanos have given every indication he's ready to make the long-awaited jump to the big leagues. The defensive adjustment might take some more time.
Manager Brad Ausmus is showing every indication he's willing to be patient on both sides of the plate, regardless of whether fans react the same. As much as he's reading Castellanos now while he's off to a solid start this spring, he also knows to watch how a rookie will react to a slump.
"It's easy to be in a good mood and have an upbeat outlook on the game when you're doing well," Ausmus said on Saturday morning. "I like to be around the guy when he's not doing so well and see how he handles it. That goes into the consistency factor -- not just the production, but consistency in character.
"Some guys are very good at it. Some guys are happy whether they went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts or 4-for-4 with four homers. Some people are very stoic in those situations, and other people are rollercoasters. It can make it tough. I don't know where Nick falls into play. It's easy in Spring Training to be happy go lucky when the games aren't really all that meaningful. I think Nick certainly has the ability to do well, and I hope he does well."
Castellanos has had that on his way up. He hit .227 in his first 32 games of Triple-A ball last year, then went on a tear that saw him raise his average over .300 by the end of June.
Castellanos served as the designated hitter on Saturday afternoon against the Mets, after playing third base on Friday night. He's one of three players scheduled to start both games of the Tigers' upcoming trip to Jupiter, both times at third base. The goal remains to give him as much playing time at third without wearing him down by Opening Day.
Only Victor Martinez and Hernan Perez entered Saturday with more at-bats on the team this spring than Castellanos, who was 7-for-17 at the time. He added three more at-bats, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
Offensively, Ausmus is happy with the approach he has seen from Castellanos, as well as evaluations from hitting coaches Wally Joyner and Darnell Coles.
"He certainly looks like he's trying to use the whole field -- especially the alleys, right-center, left-center," Ausmus said. "He has the ability to drive the ball to right-center, which helps. But don't make the mistake: There are very few Mike Trouts."
In other words, rookies are rarely consistent throughout the course of a season.
"It really starts when you get into games. Every young player is going to struggle at times," Ausmus said. "They're going to make mistakes that make you shake your head at times. The key is to keep looking forward, not looking in the rear-view mirror. The hardest part, I think, is the mental aspect."
Defensively, Ausmus said that infield coach Omar Vizquel is working daily with Castellanos, either on the field with ground balls or in the clubhouse and dugout talking about positioning.