Simon Castro's first go-round at the Triple-A level didn't go so well last year. His first start there this season wasn't so hot either. But on Thursday, it appeared that success finally found the 24-year-old right-handed pitcher.
Or perhaps it was the other way around.
The White Sox's No. 6 prospect struck out nine and allowed only four hits through seven innings in Charlotte's 1-0 win over Pawtucket in 11 innings. The strikeout count marked the hurler's highest since he punched out 10 for Double-A San Antonio on July 31, 2011, when he was a member of the Padres organization.
Traded in the offseason as part of the deal that sent Carlos Quentin to San Diego, Castro was making his second start of the season for the Knights following a June 22 callup. He surrendered seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits over five innings in his debut for the club one day after his move to the International League.
But as hittable as he might have been last Saturday, the hard-throwing righty was equally stingy Thursday.
All four hits Castro surrendered were singles, and none of the four came in the same inning. In fact, over his seven innings on the mound, no Red Sox batter reached as far as second base. Pawtucket had multiple runners reach base only in the first inning, but that sequence included Jason Repko being hit by a pitch, Jose Iglesias grounding into a double play and a single by Lars Anderson.
The Dominican Republic native needed to be at his best, because PawSox starter Brandon Duckworth was throwing a gem as well. The 36-year-old veteran allowed only two baserunners to reach -- on a double and a single -- and struck out five through seven innings.
The game stayed knotted at 0-0 until Greg Golson, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, hit a solo homer in the 11th inning to give the Knights the eventual victory.
Despite not earning a decision, the start marked Castro's best outing through eight career starts at the Triple-A level. He was 2-2 in six starts for Tucson last season, but was tagged with a 10.17 ERA after giving up three or more runs in each of those appearances. That earned him an early-season demotion to San Antonio, where he finished the year 5-6 with a 4.33 ERA in 16 starts.
Castro returned to the Double-A ranks to start the year this season and was 6-3 with a 3.60 ERA before moving on to Charlotte.
Jhan Marinez and Donnie Veal combined to allow only one hit in four innings in relief of Castro. Veal earned the win and improved to 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA through 23 appearances this season.