For the second straight start, Fort Wayne's Max Fried walked the leadoff batter.
Unlike his first start, the Padres' No. 2 prospect avoided any damage. The zero in the first inning -- and the pitches he saved in the process -- helped the 19-year-old pick up his first professional win Friday as the Class A Advanced TinCaps topped the Lake County Captains, 9-1.
Fried (1-0) pitched five scoreless innings, striking out eight while allowing only three hits. Through two starts, Midwest League opponents are hitting .138 off the left-hander, who's struck out 13 batters over nine frames.
Fried started Friday by walking Luigi Rodriguez but promptly picked him off first base. He also allowed a triple to Robel Garcia but stranded him with a strikeout and a groundout.
"After walking the first guy to start the game, I thought he could've gone like last game," TinCaps pitching coach Burt Hooton said, alluding to Fried's first start, when he loaded the bases and allowed a run before recording back-to-back strikeouts. "He settled himself down and had a pretty good five innings."
Seeing Fried make his own adjustments on the hill pleased Hooton. The former Major Leaguer believes firmly that for a player as young as Fried, experience is the clearest path to improvement.
"As a coach, you have to step back and let them learn from experience and point out what they should be learning," Hooton said. "(Fried) doesn't have that much professional experience under his belt. One thing you can't slap on a guy is time and experience."
Fried was selected seventh overall in last year's Draft. He logged 17 2/3 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League after signing, getting his feet wet and producing a 3.57 ERA, primarily as a starter.
Those outings were mostly two-inning stints. This year, the Padres are loosening the leash to about 80 pitches per start, and Fried responded well Friday. Logan Vick reached on a throwing error in the third and Fried picked him off first before getting consecutive groundouts. In the fourth, the California native sandwiched three strikeouts around a walk to Nellie Rodriguez before adding two punchouts in the fifth.
"He was a little wild with his spots at times, but he got himself under control," Hooton said. "He made good pitches with the fastball, he used his curveball well and he threw some good changeups. He did a very good job. The biggest thing he accomplished tonight was keeping himself under control."
That control is an encouraging step for Fried. At this point, the prospect's game plan is simple. His stuff is advanced for his age -- thus the Padres' decision to move him to the Midwest League at 19. What he needs most is repetition.
With 80 pitches a game at his disposal, Fried said he hopes to gain a better awareness of where he is in his development and continue to identify areas for improvement.
"My goal this season is to really learn my body and master my movement," he explained. "I haven't been as consistent in my delivery as I want and it's caused my command to vary from where I want. I'm working on keeping a good tempo and focusing on keeping everything in order so I can execute the way I want."
Fried described his fastball command as "spotty" Friday. The two walks were an improvement over the four he issued in his first start, signaling some improvement. As with most teenagers, there's still a long way to go on the consistency front for Fried, something he's aware of and working to improve.
"We've been doing a lot of dry work with no ball, standing on the mound and repeating my delivery over and over," Fried said. "The last two or three days, I've been doing that for 15, 20 minutes straight out of the windup and out of the stretch."
The TinCaps led, 4-0, when Fried exited, adding five runs in the bottom of the sixth as Jeremy Baltz hit a three-run homer. Corey Adamson collected three hits, two RBIs, a stolen base and a run scored, while Luis Tejada chipped in two hits and scored a run.