In a perfect world for the White Sox, Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber would put their struggles behind them, pitching at the level the team believes the pair can. But if one or both pitchers can't keep runs from scoring -- Floyd has an ERA of 10.38 in his last seven starts and Humber has a 7.47 ERA since his perfect game -- the Sox may be forced to look elsewhere for starting pitching.
A name that popped up this week is Simon Castro, who the White Sox acquired from San Diego in last winter's Carlos Quentin trade. Once a highly-touted prospect in the Padres' system, Castro's star fell considerably during a 2011 season that saw him post a 5.63 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. Castro began the season with Triple-A Tucson, but was sent back to Double-A after six rough starts.
But Castro has pitched well with Double-A Birmingham, sporting a 3.60 ERA with 67 strikeouts, 16 walks and four home runs allowed in 85 innings. And he's caught the eye of Kenny Wiliams, who discussed the pitcher's progress on Monday.
"We're really happy with his progress," Williams said. "He has returned to the guy that he was when he was one of the top prospects in baseball with San Diego."
The question, though, is if Castro can handle opponents at a level higher than Double-A. 2012 is Castro's third go-around in Double-A, where he's posted a 3.52 ERA in 304 career innings. But Castro has struggled at Triple-A, making eight starts at that level in the San Diego organization with a 9.50 ERA. His control has escaped him in Triple-A, with 24 walks and 27 strikeouts to his name in 36 innings.
Williams says the main question with Castro is if he can handle the mental aspect of pitching above Double-A.
"We're going to make sure that continues and have the conversations like we did with Jose Quintana and some of the other guys we brought up quickly: Can he handle it makeup-wise and will he continue to grow and not go backwards? It's a delicate situation when you're discussing things along those lines, but we couldn't be any more pleased than where we are with him."
Quintana has shown the mettle to pitch above Double-A, posting a 1.53 ERA in 35 13 innings with the Sox this season. Unlike Castro, Quintana never failed at Triple-A, although that's because he hasn't thrown an inning at that level in his career.
To Castro's credit, the Pacific Coast League is a cruel place for pitchers, and he's hardly thrown enough innings in Triple-A to make a long-term judgment about his ability to pitch at that level.
The Sox don't appear ready to shake up the starting rotation just yet, especially with John Danks out for at least another month. But if they do reach that point, Castro may find himself in the pitching help discussion.