Ahead of schedule, Castro eyes spring games

Ahead of schedule, Castro eyes spring games

Ahead of schedule, Castro eyes spring games
HOUSTON -- Astros catcher Jason Castro, who missed all of last season with a serious knee injury and underwent foot surgery two months ago, is still aiming to be ready for action when Grapefruit League play begins in a month in Florida.

Castro provided an update on his health status Friday, which marked eight weeks since he underwent surgery to remove a bone in his left foot. He's progressing ahead of schedule, and has been cleared to start jogging and increasing the intensity of his workouts.

"I've been really happy so far," Castro said. "I've been doing quite a bit of work on the rehab, physical therapy side, and the whole healing process and everything has actually gone really well. I'm pretty much ahead of schedule as far as the way it's been healing and the progress I've made in my rehab and everything."

Castro, 24, underwent surgery Dec. 9 to remove the sesamoid bone from his foot after injuring it playing in the Arizona Fall League. The injury is similar to the one suffered a year ago by former Astros second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who had surgery to remove the sesamoid bone and missed three months.

The team's first-round Draft pick in 2008, Castro remains penciled in as the starting catcher.

"I'm not going to rush anything when I first get to camp just so that I'm ready to play when games start and kind of make sure I'm strong enough and my foot is ready for game-speed-type stuff," Castro said. "We'll take it as it comes, and when I get to camp, feel it out and see what I'm ready for and progress from there."

The Astros are a little more than two weeks away from pitchers and catchers holding their first Spring Training workouts in Kissimmee, Fla., and Castro is anxious. He sat out all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair a large tear in the meniscus and having a reconstruction of the right ACL.

"It's been a real long year," he said. "I'm real excited. I'm sure every year everyone says they're excited, but for me this year, it's a little different. I really can't wait to get going because of everything I went through last year. It's a little bit special for me coming off last year, and I'm really looking forward to getting going and kind of proving to myself that I've come back healthy and I'm ready to go."

With injuries casting some uncertainty about how much playing time Castro may be able to handle when the season starts, the Astros last month signed veteran catcher Chris Snyder to a one-year deal with an option to provide depth at the position.

Castro and Snyder will join veteran backup Humberto Quintero, who has re-signed for $1 million, as the three catchers on the 40-man roster when Spring Training begins. The Astros could carry all three catchers when the regular season starts, but that is unlikely.

Castro is looking forward to working with the veteran Snyder.

"He's been around a long time and he's got a lot of knowledge about the position," he said. "With him and 'Q' in camp, it will be great to get in there and just continue to learn the catching position and share some ideas and just kind of talk shop when we get there.

"I think catchers kind of learn from each other a little bit when you're doing drills and you see things guys do, and when you talk to them, you get certain things or ideas that have worked for them. It's great any time you can be around guys that have been around the game longer than you and can help you improve your game."

Quintero, who's been with the Astros since 2005, started 73 games behind the plate last year and hit .240 and set career highs in RBIs (25), doubles (12), hits (63) and runs (22). He's ready to handle a big workload again in 2012, but he wants Castro to show what he can do.

"I've been catching a lot for the last couple of years," Quintero said. "I feel sad for [Castro], because he was ready and had another setback. The first couple of months are going to be hard for him, but after that he'll be OK. I'm hoping he gets well and plays."

Snyder, 30, hit .271 with three homers and 17 RBIs in only 34 games for the Pirates last year before undergoing season-ending surgery in June to repair a herniated disk. Snyder says he's healthy, and manager Brad Mills takes comfort in having some capable catching depth.

"He's had some injury issues, as well, but from what I understand, the doctors gave him the thumbs up," Mills said. "They said his back was in real good shape and he can be a good addition and give us more depth."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.