Kyle Hald spent 10 weeks this offseason building arm strength with a new workout regimen. The Palm Beach left-hander got to put it to the test in a critical moment of Wednesday night's game against previously unbeaten St. Lucie.
Through 6 2/3 innings, Hald had only allowed one hit. Then Matt Reynolds singled and Aderlin Rodriguez smacked a ground-rule double. The Cardinals' slim 1-0 lead was in peril.
"We started [Dustin Lawley] with a changeup. We had a base open, so we didn't have to give him a great pitch. He didn't chase it though," said Hald. "My fastball was working, so you throw your best pitch there, and thankfully he popped it up."
Danger averted. Reliever Heath Wyatt tossed two perfect innings of relief and Palm Beach held on for the 1-0 victory. Hald didn't walk a batter while striking out four for his first win of the season.
The 2011 18th-rounder out of Old Dominion University said he worked on "baseball velocity" with pitching and strength coach Jamie Evans over the winter.
The program, which was done four nights a week for 10 weeks, involves performing his motion with a two-pound ball in his hand, then a one-pound ball, down to about four ounces before throwing a regular baseball.
In some ways, it's similar to a hitter putting a doughnut on his bat and taking a few swings. Hald said ultimately it helped strengthen his arm speed and shoulder, something that came in handy as he faced his final batter Wednesday.
"The fastball worked early, and we just kept with it the whole game," he said. "I feel a lot stronger [after the workout program] and it showed tonight. I haven't really checked [the velocity] personally. I can't get too into that stuff, but my body feels great."
Faced with the prospect of not just losing the shutout, but also the lead, Hald planned to end what he started.
"I was gonna finish that inning," he said. "We had someone warming up, but I don't like someone else to do my own job, so I was definitely going to finish."
In two starts this year, Hald has put up an 0.82 ERA, striking out 10 without issuing a walk in 11 innings.
He spent part of last season with Palm Beach after a callup from Class A Quad Cities. Between the two levels, he went 7-9 with a 3.36 ERA in 136 2/3 innings. He struck out 115 and walked 24.
"[Coming back to Palm Beach] definitely helps. You know what to expect with what these hitters are. It's a little different from [Class A] so that taste last year helps," he said.
Second baseman Colin Walsh drove in the game's only run with a fifth-inning single to center field.