Celestino dominant in two-hit shutout

Red Sox prospect whiffs three over career-high eight innings

By David Heck / Special to MLB.com | July 11, 2012 9:06 PM ET

At times, Salem's Miguel Celestino forgets just how dominant his stuff can be. On Wednesday, he remembered -- and Lynchburg found out.

The Red Sox's No. 19 prospect yielded just two hits over a career-high eight innings, leading the Class A Advanced Red Sox to a 4-0 shutout of the Hillcats.

Celestino struck out just three, but induced 16 groundouts. The effort lowered his ERA from 4.58 to 4.15.

"I thought he threw an excellent game," Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker said. "He had his three pitches all working tonight -- fastball, slider, changeup. The biggest aspect of his success was that he committed to throwing the fastball inside early, which really opened up the outer half."

The 22-year-old right-hander did not give up a hit until the seventh frame, when Adam Milligan lined a single to center field. Edward Salcedo followed with a ground-ball single through the left side, but that was all Lynchburg would get on the night.

"He went to an 0-2 count [against Milligan] and threw a slider a little over the plate on the outer half," Walker said. "[Milligan] hit a line drive to center field. The next batter he made a pretty good pitch to. [Salcedo] hit a ground ball between short and third. ... That was it."

Pete Ruiz set the Hillcats down in order in the ninth to preserve the shutout.

Wednesday's outing represents a recovery for Celestino, who had surrendered 17 runs over his last 11 innings spanning three starts. Walker said part of the problem had been Celestino's reluctance to throw inside.

"I've been talking to him and telling him the importance of using the whole plate," Walker said. "I think he got in patterns of being a guy that just pitches away. He wasn't throwing inside, and you've got to keep hitters honest. To work outside, you've got to throw inside."

Signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent in 2006, Celestino was traded to the Red Sox with infielder Bill Hall in exchange for Casey Kotchman on March 18, 2010. He performed well for Class A Greenville last year, posting a 3.84 ERA while leading Red Sox Minor Leaguers with 27 starts and 140 2/3 innings pitched.

According to Walker, there's never been any question about what Celestino brings to the table in terms of stuff.

"There's no doubt in his fastball -- he's 92-96 [mph] and sits at 94," Walker said. "And he's 6-foot-6, so he creates excellent angles. He leverages the baseball really well. When he throws down in the zone, the pitch is tough to hit. He's got a really good changeup and the slider is coming along. He's still working on it, and we're still working on him being more consistent. The pieces are there."

In order to achieve the consistency that Walker talked about -- and turn in dominant outings like Wednesday's more frequently -- Celestino simply has to trust in what he can do.

"That's a big thing, going out there and trusting that what you do is enough," Walker said. "There are times that we try to do too much when actually all we have to do is trust what we have and makes pitches."

David Heck is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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