Sometimes failure can be the biggest catalyst of success. Just ask New York Yankees pitching prospect Daniel Camarena.
Go back as recently as May 24 when Camarena was 0-3 with an 8.12 ERA. He had just given up six runs in a game for the sixth time in nine starts, and he had been sent to the bullpen to find his mojo. Then, everything clicked.
On Thursday, Camarena (1-3) allowed just a walk over six hitless innings to earn his first professional win in the Class A Charleston RiverDogs' rain-shortened 4-1 victory over the Augusta GreenJackets.
"It took two-and-a-half years, but I finally got one," Camarena said of his first notch in the win column. "It was awesome. I was mixing in a lot of good pitches and throwing them for strikes. I think I was able to keep them off balance and the defense was there to back me up when I wanted to attack hitters.
"There wasn't really one dominant pitch. Some guys I threw sliders, others change-ups and other guys fastballs."
The 20-year-old faced the minimum the first two times through the order, erasing Charles Jones' one-out walk in the third inning by picking him off.first base during an attempted steal.
Tyler Webb replaced Camarena in the seventh inning, but he promptly lost the no-hit bid when Jesus Galindo hit a bloop single to lead off the frame.
Selected by the Yankees in the 20th round of the 2011 Draft, Camarena struggled through the first two months of the year, posting a 9.00 ERA in four games in April and a 6.46 mark in six appearances in May.
Over 40 2/3 innings across those first two months, he allowed 34 earned runs and another eight unearned.
"There were a lot of mental struggles," said Camarena, who only recently incorporated a slider into what had always been a three-pitch mix.. "It was the first time I had struggled and I didn't know how to deal with it. At first, I didn't know what was going on. I thought it was just one bad game and that I would bounce back, but then it kept piling on.
"I was doing way too much thinking. When I was struggling, I wasn't slacking or working any less, it was just a mental thing. I just had to simplify things, throw strikes and pitch down in the zone."
After yielding 12 earned runs in consecutive starts against Greenville, the RiverDogs moved Camarena to the bullpen temporarily. The move appears to have done the trick.
In his past seven outings -- four starts and three relief appearances -- the California native has been dominant. His 0.33 ERA since that move to the 'pen is the lowest among all pitchers -- in the Majors as well as any level in the Minors -- who have made at least four starts or seven appearances.
Camarena has allowed one run over 27 innings, striking out 16 batters and issuing three walks. In his three most recent starts, he allowed just two hits over 15 scoreless frames.
"I'm a lot more confident now than I was two months ago," said Camarena, who struck out 15 batters over 17 2/3 innings across five games last year after returning from shoulder tendinitis. "I have a little more experience under my belt. I wasn't mad when they told me, I just took it as a new challenge and just willed myself to succeed by believing in myself.
"It won't be the last time I will struggle, but I know now how to deal with those struggles."
Charleston second baseman Angelo Gumbs was 2-for-4 with a solo homer and two runs scored and first baseman Reymond Nunez recorded two RBIs in the victory.
Augusta starter Joan Gregoria (4-2) allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out six batter over 6 2/3 innings.