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All directions pointed up for Downs
05/05/2009 9:37 PM ET
Darin Downs isn't fazed by much.

Traded by the Cubs to the Rays. A marquee pitcher for a brand new team. Increasing his focus on strikeouts over ground-ball outs. And Charlotte's lefty has seemingly taken it all in stride.

That attitude has proved to be of great use to him in the early going this year.

In possibly his best start of the year Tuesday, Downs (5-0) scattered four hits over seven innings in the Stone Crabs' 6-0 shutout of the host Jupiter Hammerheads. He struck out six and didn't walk a batter.

The 24-year-old tossed a complete game in his second start of the year on April 29, a 6-3 victory at Palm Beach, but Tuesday's outing might have topped that one.

"It's up there," Downs said. "The complete game, I threw 77 pitches and was a little more efficient, but this game I was throwing my breaking ball for strikes and my changeup for strikes. In the complete game, there were plenty of ground-ball outs. Today, I had to actually pitch."

He went 0-3 in 10 games with the Vero Beach Devil Rays after being traded to Tampa Bay last season but quickly found more of a comfort level coming out of Spring Training.

"Basically, they do the same kind of thing," Downs said. "Coming to the Rays, I just got new coaches and some new perspectives. They run a pretty good system."

Downs was named the April Pitcher of the Month for Charlotte after allowing six runs -- five earned -- on 22 hits and only two walks in 25 innings. He fanned 19 in that span.

"The biggest difference has been trying to take it pitch by pitch and hitter by hitter," Downs said. "I'm trying to throw strikes. "It's a little bit of a progression. I'm finding more of a comfort level mechanically. ... Being comfortable just comes with my age. I'm not worrying about my last start."

Perhaps his familiarity with the area helped him adjust quickly. His grandmother resided in Charlotte County until Hurricane Charley hit in '04, when she relocated.

"I never saw a game in the stadium [when the Rangers were in town]," Downs said. "It's a pretty nice little town. The stadium and facility are brand new and they're just gorgeous."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.