Having thrown 78 pitches through eight innings and with a large lead, Cristian Castillo left his pitching coach no choice but to let him finish what he started.
The Royals prospect pitched a one-hitter and walked one while striking out a career-high 11 in his first career complete game on Friday night as Rookie-level Burlington blanked visiting Pulaski, 11-0.
Castillo (3-2) faced three batters over the minimum to win for the first time in three starts and lower his ERA to 3.07. The 21-year-old left-hander leads the Appalachian League in innings pitched with 44 and is second with 45 strikeouts.
Royals pitching coach Carlos Martinez said he was impressed enough by Castillo to finally let a pitcher go the distance under his watch.
"Oh, man, that was the first time in my career [as a pitching coach] that I've allowed someone to go nine innings," he said. "Everything with Cristian started with three quality pitches. He's a kid who's a strike-thrower and works back and forth with his velocity. He's got a very good understanding of what he does on the mound. It was really fun to watch."
The Mexico native allowed a two-out single to Yankees No. 5 prospect Blake Rutherford in the first inning, then retired 15 straight hitters before Estevan Florial reached on a wild third strike in the fifth. Castillo walked Florial in the ninth but retired the final two batters to complete the first nine-inning complete-game shutout in the Appy League this season.
Martinez and Burlington manager Scott Thorman said the decision to let their starter go the distance was an easy one.
"I was looking at our manager in the eighth inning," Martinez said. "He had some pitches still left to go after needing just 78 through eight. We had a guy up in the bullpen just in case, but we had plenty of confidence in him to finish it off. He responded well."
Castillo has yielded 33 hits and seven walks through his first seven starts this season. He posted a 2.67 ERA in 14 starts last year in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.
"He depends on locating his pitches," Martinez said. "His velocity is generally in the high 80s and low 90s, usually around 89-90 or so. But he has a changeup he can throw at any time for strikes. Today, it was a plus pitch with a big tail and hard break. It really gave a tough time to the left-handed hitters."
Castillo pitched with a lead almost all night as Burlington scored a run in the first and two in the second. First baseman Chris DeVito, who doubled and drove in three runs, was one of five Royals to notch two hits. Jonathan McCray hit his fifth homer and added two RBIs.
Pulaski starter Julian Aybar (0-2) allowed nine runs on 10 hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.