BRADENTON, Fla. – Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand and native of Honduras, Orlando Castro, has added motivation to play in the major leagues – he wants to make some history.
The left-handed pitcher is not looking to set any great records, such as most wins or strikeouts, or the lowest ERA.
Castro’s home country isn’t known for its baseball talent, so just making his way to the highest level would be a huge accomplishment for the 21-year-old.
“It’s a little bit difficult to be a Honduran player here in the minor leagues, because there are just a few of us, and for that reason we have to work even harder to have more solid stats,” he said, translated from his native tongue. “But the organization is watching everyone to make the best decision they can.”
Reaching the majors for Castro would certainly be historic, since only one player from Honduras has succeeded in the majors – centre fielder Gerald Young, who played between 1987 and 1994.
The young southpaw started getting some professional help to spark his career right before he joined the pro ranks.
“When I was 17, my cousin who used to play professionally helped me a lot. He explained the game to me and I decided try to be a pro,” he said.
Mariano Gomez, his relative and mentor, reached the Triple-A level for three different affiliations during his 13 seasons in the minor leagues. The big dream for Castro is to surpass him, but he also wants to make his country to stand out.
Last year, the left-hander started off the season with outstanding numbers with the Low Class-A West Virginia Power in the South Atlantic League, posting a 1.93 ERA over 13 starts and 74 2/3 innings, walking just six and striking out 63 batters.
His numbers dropped off slightly when the Pirates promoted him to Class-A Advanced Bradenton in late June. With the Marauders in the Florida State League, Castro had a 4.32 ERA through 33 1/3 innings, with just four starts. He walked 11 and struck out 21 over that span.
“There is a considerable difference between the leagues and it was a huge step. A-Advanced is a stronger league with a lot of more experienced hitters,” he said. “My numbers were just average, but I did not pitch frequently and also I had a little injury. I had some improvement when I recovered.”
The small 5-foot-11, 190-pound lefty who signed as an international free agent in 2009 has set his sights this year to start at Bradenton and hopes to finish the season at least with the Pirates Double-A affiliate Altoona Curve.
Castro will only be 22 this season, but scouts indicate that he could estabilish himself as lefty specialist.
“I need to improve my fastballs, the pace of the game, and develop how to read a hitter’s swing,” he said.