For Castro, 22, the key to the season was a vast improvement in his command. Last year in Eugene, his K/BB ratio was 64/29 in 65.1 innings. Last year in Fort Wayne in 75 more innings, he only walked eight more batters.
Castro has improved so much that the Padres have him ticketed to jump Lake Elsinore and begin the year at San Antonio. Padres' pitching coordinator Mike Couchee agreed with Castro that the key to his success was his improvement in fastball command.
"Command, and its not that it all came at one time," said Couchee. "Simon has made more progress from where he started to where he is now than I have seen in 27 years of doing this.
"He has gotten better and better every year."
You had a great year in Fort Wayne last year. Previously you had pitched well in Eugene and Arizona, but you really seemed to make the great leap forward last year. What happened?
Simon Castro: The first thing is that I ask the Lord to help me out on everything, and the coaches have been great for me. I think the big thing for me was I was able to focus on each pitch better than I did previously. The years before, I was so young, I lost focus sometimes in games which caused me to get wild.
Last year, I worked on focusing on every start, every inning and every pitch. I also tried to work out as hard as I could because my conditioning really helped put me ahead.
That is a common theme when we talk to the Padres about not only how hard you work out, but how intelligently you work out. Do you think a bigger part of your success is that you may have been working out just as hard in the past, but now you are able to work out more intelligently?
Simon Castro: Yes, that has really helped me. You have to understand why you are doing something – not just do it. I'm always trying to understand why I am doing something and how it will help me.
What is your best pitch?
Simon Castro: My two-seam fastball, I get a lot of ground balls with it. My four-seamer is pretty good along with my slider.
So your slider just moves out more than the two-seamer. Its kind of pitch where the batter thinks its a two-seamer but it moves out of the zone.
Simon Castro: It makes it more difficult for the hitter to really know what is coming. I'm trying to make the slider a little tighter.
Talk a little bit about your background. When you were signed out of the Dominican Republic you were considered a good, but not great prospect, is that true?
Simon Castro: I didn't really know anything about pitching. I had the talent when I signed, but I didn't know how to use it. The difference is now that I am starting to learn how to use my talent.
So many people claim that a big reason for your development is how well you have adapted off of the field. You speak English very well and you interact with both Latin and American players in the locker room. Has that really helped you to become a better pitcher?
Simon Castro: For me, the great thing is to be with the people, my teammates. I really wanted to learn the language so I can really be friendly with everyone. When I meet some of the younger Latin kids, I always try to help them out and help them learn English. You can learn so much when you can talk to everyone.
We have been told that you are going to begin the year in Double-A San Antonio, which is a very big jump. What is your biggest goal going into this year.
Simon Castro: Its a great opportunity for me. My focus is going to be just to make the staff and try to do what I did last year, focus on every start, every inning and every pitch.
Every year I have gotten better and I will this year too.
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