Welington Castillo’s failed drug test and the Chicago White Sox’s injury problems are causing a ripple effect in the organization.
The results include several new faces for the Charlotte Knights and plenty of playing time for Charlotte native Brett Austin.
Castillo, a catcher signed as a free agent by the White Sox in the offseason, was handed an 80-game suspension by Major League Baseball last week after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, MLB officials announced.
That left the White Sox with only Omar Narvaez as a catcher, so Chicago called up Alfredo Gonzalez from Charlotte. The White Sox might have considered promoting catcher Kevan Smith, but the Knights placed him on the disabled list with an ankle injury.
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The result: Austin, a Providence High product, is now the Knights’ starting catcher.
He has responded well in his first week behind the plate, going 6-for-15, with a .400 batting average and two RBI.
And injury problems in Chicago have resulted in the White Sox promoting several outfielders from the minors. That’s partially why two outfielders with major league experience were assigned to Charlotte during the past week.
Michael Saunders, 31, who made the Major League All-Star roster in 2016 as a Toronto Blue Jay and was signed by the White Sox earlier this year, was assigned to the Knights.
So was Alex Presley, who spent parts of eight seasons in the majors.
And to provide some catching help, the White Sox claimed 30-year-old Dustin Garneau off waivers from the Oakland A’s and assigned him to Charlotte. Garneau originally was signed in 2009 by the Colorado Rockies.
Here’s a look at the Knights’ past week:
Monday: Charlotte scored eight runs in the bottom of the second and opened a home stand with a 12-6 victory over Norfolk. In his second AAA start, right-handed pitcher Jordan Stephens went 6.1 innings and allowed just one earned run.
Tuesday: Norfolk trounced the Knights 9-3, although Charlotte first baseman Matt Skole slammed two home runs. Knights’ starter T.J. House took the loss.
Wednesday: The Tides beat Charlotte 6-3, scoring three runs in the ninth off reliever Rob Scahill. Starter Michael Kopech went five innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight.
Thursday: The four-game series ended with the Tides edging the Knights 5-4 in 10 innings. Former N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon started for Charlotte and went 2.2 innings before being hit in the forehead by a line drive.
Friday: Charlotte edged Indianapolis 2-1, with right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer going five innings and allowing just one run. It was Fulmer’s first appearance with the Knights since being sent down from Chicago.
Saturday: Indianapolis got four runs in the final three innings off the Knights’ bullpen and won 6-2. Charlotte starter Jordan Stephens allowed just two runs in six innings.
The week ahead: The Knights close their homestand with a 2:05 p.m. Memorial Day game against Indianapolis. Then they visit Lehigh Valley for 7:05 p.m. games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Next weekend, they’re in Buffalo for games at 7:05 p.m. Friday, 6:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. next Sunday.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle