Bobby Castillo, the pitcher credited with teaching Fernando Valenzuela how to throw a screwball, died early Monday morning, the Dodgers announced in a press release. Castillo was 59.
“I was very saddened to hear about Bobby’s passing this morning,” said Valenzuela. “He was a great teammate and friend. I’ll always be grateful for his influence on my pitching. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
A Los Angeles native, Castillo was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 6th round in 1974. Three years later, the Dodgers purchased his contract, and called him up in September. The first batter Castillo retired in his big league debut was Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench.
From 1977-1981, Castillo appeared in 138 games for Los Angeles, including a career-high 61 in 1980. He was member of the 1981 Championship team and made one appearance in both the NLCS against the Expos and the World Series against they Yankees.
In January of 1982, the Dodgers traded Castillo to the Twins. In three seasons in Minnesota, he won 23 games and posted a 3.98 ERA.
After the 1985 seasons, Castillo was granted free agency and re-signed with Los Angeles. He pitched 35 games for the Dodgers that season, going 2-2 with a 5.43 ERA. The Dodgers released Castillo the following year on April 2, just five days before the start of the season.
Through he would never pitch in the major leagues again, Castillo did play two more seasons professionally. In 1986, at age 31 he went to the Mexican League where he pitched a year for Monterrey. The following year, his last as a pro, he pitched for the Chunichi Dragons in the Japanese Central League.
After retiring from the game, Castillo joined the Dodger organization as part of their community relations, serving on the speakers’ bureau. Castillo was a familiar fixture on Dodger hospital visits, autograph signings, and youth baseball clinics.
Castillo is survived by his mother, Nellie, his daughter, Mellanie, his daughter, Sara, and her husband, Andrew Sanchez, his son Robert III, and his sister, Lorraine, and her husband, Peter Gonzalez. Castillo had three nieces and nephews, nine grand nieces and nephews and two grandchildren, Jackson and Lila.
Funeral services are pending.