BRADENTON, Fla. -- All appears to be well between Jack Wilson and Jose Castillo, though that remains difficult to gauge definitively.
The Pirates' middle infielders met privately yesterday morning at McKechnie Field for their first conversation since Wilson's biting criticisms of Castillo in a televised interview Jan. 26. Wilson ushered Castillo into manager Jim Tracy's office -- Tracy was across town at Pirate City-- and the two remained behind a closed door for 20 minutes.
What they said was not known, as neither engaged in an interview upon emerging. Wilson, minutes afterward, said simply, "Yes," when asked if everything was now OK.
Judging from comments made before the meeting, the two sounded eager to put the matter in the past.
"I don't care what guys say," Castillo said shortly before the meeting. "I'm coming here ready to play, with my bat, my glove, everything. I'm just coming here ready to play baseball."
Asked how he felt about Wilson's remarks and if they can continue to be friends, he repeated, "I don't care what guys say. We're on the same team."
Castillo, it is important to note, was speaking in English, his distant second language. He is Venezuelan.
In that interview three weeks ago, Wilson criticized Castillo's physical conditioning, work ethic and mental preparation, going so far as to call Castillo's approach to some defensive plays "lazy." Wilson has stood by all of his remarks since then, and his intention yesterday seemed aimed at explaining them rather than apologizing.
"I just want Jose to understand the type of player he can be," Wilson reiterated before the meeting. "I've heard he's reported in a lot better shape, and that's great. He should get a lot of credit for that. It's going to help make him a better player."
Castillo did, indeed, have a different look about him. He said he lost 10 pounds, but it appeared to be closer to the 20 pounds that Tracy estimated. Whatever the case, it surely was firmer than his 6-foot-1, 219-pound stature of last season. Several teammates made congratulatory comments to him about it in the clubhouse, and there was widespread praise, too, for his sharp fielding exhibition early in the morning.
The weight loss, Castillo said, was the result not only of playing 49 games of winter ball in Venezuela but also of an offseason training regimen that included daily running and visits to the gym.
"I feel good right now, different than last year," Castillo said. "I don't have as much weight."
Tracy, palpably determined not to allow the Wilson-Castillo matter to become a distraction in spring training, met privately with each player first thing in the morning to discuss it.
"I've talked to both players about the situation and, as far as I'm concerned, it's way behind us," Tracy said.
Of the two meeting on their own later, Tracy added, "You would hope that would happen."
And of the chances there will be any further discord: "Zero."
Tracy did not elaborate on what he said to either player, but Tracy told the Post-Gazette two weeks ago that he was displeased about Wilson making his criticism public. Tracy said at the time, "I think those are situations you handle in-house."
Tracy seemed satisfied yesterday with Castillo's shape, but he struck no more than a cautiously optimistic chord when asked its significance.
"I hope that this level of dedication represents exactly who's shown up," Tracy said. "If you look at our team and the success we had in the second half, there's a feeling here that this is real. And, as a result, there's an expectation that your 'A' game has to show up. The approach to the game has to be consistent every day. If you look around and see everybody else has it, you might start thinking to yourself, 'If I don't have it, I might get left behind.' "Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo arrived at spring training looking an estimated 10-20 pounds lighter.
Click photo for larger image.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com .