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Mets cut Castillo, will lose $6 million

PORT ST. LUCIE — The Mets released second baseman Luis Castillo on Friday despite still owing him $6 million, cutting ties with a three-time All-Star linked to one of the most painful plays in team history.

Mets fans never forgave him for dropping a potential game-ending popup by Alex Rodriguez in 2009, a misplay that let the Yankees score two runs to win in the bottom of the ninth. Castillo was booed — a rarity in spring training — this week after he was slow to cover first base during an exhibition game.

Castillo, 35, had lost a lot of range in recent years. The switch-hitter was among five candidates for the second base job this spring, a list that still includes Luis Hernandez, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Brad Emaus.

New general manager Sandy Alderson told Castillo about the move. Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon approved the move on behalf of team ownership.

"I think there were a variety" of reasons for the release, Alderson said. "Obviously, we wanted to see how he looked physically from an offensive standpoint, defensively. You know, I think Luis made a strong effort, but we just felt given our other options and where we are headed as an organization this was in our mutual interest."

Castillo won three Gold Gloves, was a two-time NL stolen base champion and helped the 2003 Marlins win the World Series. He is a career .290 hitter with 370 steals in 15 seasons with Florida, Minnesota and the Mets. He stole 62 bases in 84 tries in 2000; he was 8 for 11 last year.

He was in the final season of a four-year, $24 million contract. He batted .235 with no homers, only six extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in 247 at-bats last season before losing his starting spot to Ruben Tejada and Hernandez.

"I think in spite of the fact no one has obviously separated himself in the competition, I think we have a good enough sense of where this is going we want to accelerate the process, so it's important to sort of scale back the competition," Alderson said.

Also, Carlos Beltran received a cortisone shot in his left knee in response to lingering discomfort.

ANGELS RELIEVER RETIRES: Scot Shields, the Angels' highly efficient setup man for much of the last decade, announced his retirement.

Shields, 35, had a knee injury and arm pain in recent years, but from 2004-08 he struck out 432 batters in 435 innings, setting up Francisco Rodriguez in the team's dominant bullpen.

"He evolved into the gold standard of what setup men are," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He could've gone a lot of places and been a closer, but he was committed to this organization and this organization was committed to him.

"He accepted his role and became the best at it."

Since the "hold" statistic was created in 1999, no American League pitcher has more than Shields' 155.

PIRATE OKAY AFTER SCARE: Pittsburgh right-hander Brad Lincoln was struck in his pitching arm by Jimmy Rollins' line drive and forced to leave early with a bruise in the Phillies' 3-2 victory.

Lincoln was hit in the third inning and quickly tracked down the ball near the first-base line. Rollins appeared startled by the accident and slowed down, and Lincoln tapped the Phillies star with his glove for the out.

"He was asking me if I was all right even before I tagged him," Lincoln said.

Lincoln said there was no reason to rule out his next start. He'll be re-evaluated today.

Also, Pittsburgh claimed left-hander Garrett Olson off waivers from the Mariners.

DODGERS: Third baseman Casey Blake might start the season on the disabled list after hurting his back trying to beat out a bunt.

MARLINS: Ricky Nolasco insists he is making progress. But slowed by a sore thumb early in spring training, Nolasco was hit hard in his second start, giving up eight hits and seven runs over two innings against the Astros.

Mets cut Castillo, will lose $6 million 03/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:33am]

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