Fresh Start for Castle

Any time a player changes organization's in his young career, it presents a series of new faces, new surroundings, and often a new lifestyle from one part of the country to another.

This is especially true for Heath Castle, a 24-year-old left-hander who joined the Oakland A's farm system earlier this year from the Florence Freedom of the Independent Frontier League in his native Kentucky, and previously the New York Yankees' farm system.

Granted, nine players out of 10 -- and sometimes 11 out of 10 -- will tell you that there really isn't much of a difference between one team's farm system than anothers. They will tell you different drills that one organization may practice more frequently than others, but the idea is generally the same.

Not so in this case, says Castle.

"It's more about the team here instead of the individual," said Castle, who has a 3.33 ERA in 27 innings for the Class A Stockton Ports. "Here, you play as a team. In the Yankee organization, it's more about what that single player does ... I wouldn't call them selfish, but they're very strict and have all kinds of rules and stipulations."

"You know where those come from," he added, referring to the obvious – Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. "I met him once. Kind of intimidating the way he comes walking over to you."

Castle joined the A's back in May and allowed four runs and four hits in just 2/3 of an inning in his Stockton debut. He proceeded to go eight straight appearances without allowing an earned run, a span of over a month.

A 16th-round draft pick from the University of Kentucky in 2003, Castle entered ‘06 fresh off his most impressive season numbers-wise. He appeared in 36 games for Class High-A Tampa of the Florida State League and posted a 2.55 ERA in 35 1/3 innings from the bullpen despite a .292 average against.

A starter in college with the Wildcats, it didn't take long for the Yankees to convert Castle into a reliever. Entering 2006, the southpaw had appeared in all 98 games of his minor league career from the bullpen. Toward the end of Spring Training last March, he was released.

"They said they didn't have enough room for me and enough innings for me," Castle said of his expulsion from the Yankee system.

The A's have found room.

On Tuesday night against Visalia, Castle made his first start since college, going three innings and allowing just one hit to 11 batters. He fanned four and walked one, and is hoping to get more starts over the final stretch of the season and possibly on into next year.

"This was more like an audition start," Castle said after the game. "I'll find out more on what they plan on doing with me in the next couple of days."

Castle features a plus-90's fastball in his repertoire. He throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, changeup and slider.

For now, he's just happy to be with a major league organization again.

"My teammates are nice, the fans are good and it's just a great experience," he said.

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