When the Baltimore Orioles selected pitching prospect Kyle Westwood in 2009, the right-hander had to make one of the toughest decisions of his life.
He had worked hard throughout his high school career for a chance to play pro ball, but when the time came, he knew he wasn't ready for the challenges that awaited him. So he went to the University of North Florida and honed his craft.
Now with the Astros, Westwood believes he made the right decision. His results back that up: The 13th-rounder allowed one single and a walk while striking out three batters over five innings in short-season Tri-City's 3-1 loss to visiting Aberdeen on Sunday.
"It was tough," Westwood said. "I got what I wanted, then passed it up to go to college. But it was the right choice.
"I was drafted, but there wasn't a lot of money, so the smart thing for me was to go to college. I got my school paid for and I got most of my degree. I'm a lot more polished than if I had come right out of high school. The learning curve is a little easier coming out of college."
On Sunday, Westwood (1-1) allowed a leadoff single to Mike Yastrzemski on a fastball over the plate in the fourth inning and retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
The outing lowered the 22-year-old's ERA to a New York-Penn League-best 0.49 and decreased opponents' batting average to .067, also the best mark in the league.
Westwood pitched 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief in his professional debut in Lowell on June 20 and he allowed one hit over five frames in Connecticut five days later. Last time out, the 6-foot-3 right-hander gave up one earned run on two hits over five frames in a loss to Vermont.
In total, the 22-year-old right-hander has allowed four hits over his first 18 1/3 innings in pro ball. Along with a pair of walks, he has allowed the fewest baserunners per nine innings than any pitcher -- starter or reliever -- on the circuit.
"I wouldn't say it's easy, because it's not, but I guess I'm either getting lucky or doing good," said Westwood, who majored in community health in college and is an internship away from completing his degree. "I've relied on my off-speed stuff more. In college, I was more of a power pitcher, but here I'm pitching with control. I take a little off here and there and keep the ball down.
"[Today] I pitched off my fastball and used my change-up. I didn't really have a good feel for my curveball, but that's usually my out pitch."
Westwood went 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 15 games -- including nine starts -- for the Ospreys in his senior year. He led the team with 71 strikeouts and issued just 12 walks, the fewest among all regular starters.
"It's fun up here," he said. "It's a grind like everyone tells you it is, but you have to roll with the punches. It's better than I expected."
Westwood was previously selected in the 44th round by the Orioles in 2009, but he did not sign.
"Scouts raved about his control around the plate, and he has a plus breaking ball that helps him get hitters out," Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias told MLB.com last month. "There's a bright future for him as a power reliever. We saw a lot of ground-ball movement on his fastball, and it'll occasionally even blow right by you."
On Sunday, Tri-City's Chris Cotton took the loss, allowing three runs -- one earned -- on four hits over 2 1/3 innings of relief.
Aberdeen starter Sebastian Vader (2-1) yielded a run on two hits and two walks while striking out three batters over six innings for the win.
Yastrzemski plated two runs and fell a homer shy of the cycle in the victory.