It's become something of a recent trend for teams to take extra caution with young arms. Notably, the Astros are piggybacking pitchers throughout its system this year, something the Blue Jays did in a handful of instances last season.
Through three games, however, Class A Advanced Modesto is going in the opposite direction.
Ben Alsup became the third Nuts pitcher in as many games to go seven innings Saturday night. He blanked the 66ers on three hits, recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and did not walk a batter in the Nuts' 5-1 win at Inland Empire.
The outing followed Chris Jensen, who yielded two runs over seven frames on Friday and Tyler Anderson, who gave up three runs in seven innings on Opening Night.
Alsup (1-0) said he was able to go deep in the game by economizing his pitches, generating groundouts and throwing first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 24 batters he faced.
"I had pretty good control of all my pitchers. Will Swanner, my catcher, and I were on the same page. We got things going off on a good start early," he said. "I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes -- curveball, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup and slider."
Colorado isn't so anomalous from the organizations that keep their young pitchers on tight leashes. The Rockies institute fairly standard pitch limits, Alsup said, but with the mountainous air awaiting prospects in Colorado Springs and Denver, the club tries to emphasize keeping the ball down and generating ground balls.
"We strive to throw strikes as starters, get batters out early in the count and just try and get as deep as we can by getting ahead of guys and putting them away early," Alsup explained. "I think every organization would love all their pitchers to be ground-ball throwers. It's more effective, but at the same time you've got Denver, where the ball flies, so they really stress throwing the ball down in the zone.
"They want you to get used to that before you get up to [Triple-A] Colorado Springs and up to Denver."
Alsup has been pretty durable in two seasons since being taken in the 18th round in the 2011 Draft out of Louisiana State University. In his debut season with short-season Tri-City, he logged 61 1/3 innings after throwing 65 2/3 frames in college. The Louisiana native posted a 3.23 ERA while striking out 50 and walking 23 for the Dust Devils.
Last year, he averaged nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing for Class A Asheville, where he tossed 156 frames in 24 starts and finished 14-5 with a 3.63 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 46 walks.
"My goal is no matter how many innings, how long I throw in a game, my goal is to give my team the best possible chance of winning the game," Alsup said. "Most cases, that is going deep into the game."
Jordan Ribera doubled and plated three runs for the Nuts, while Rockies No. 3 prospect Trevor Story reached safely four times, going 1-for-2 with three walks and a run scored.
Ryan Jones homered in the ninth to spoil Modesto's shutout bid.