The Pirates took a flier on Andy Oliver last December, trading catcher Ramon Cabrera to the Tigers for the left-hander and slotting him into the Triple-A Indianapolis rotation.
So far, they have to be pretty pleased with that decision.
Oliver stifled Louisville on Friday, striking out 10 and allowing one hit and three walks over six scoreless innings in the Indians' 4-1 victory. It was the 25-year-old's first 10-strikeout game since Aug. 24, 2010 when he was with Triple-A Toledo.
"I feel like I had everything working for me when I needed it," said Oliver, who threw 93 pitches. "When I needed to be aggressive, I made some pitches and they ended up grounding out or swinging through it.
Oliver (1-0) has made an impression through four starts for Indianapolis, notching a 2.11 ERA and an International League-leading 29 strikeouts against 12 walks over 21 1/3 innings.
It comes on the heels of a couple of tough seasons with Toledo. The 2009 second-round pick debuted in Double-A in 2010, quickly reached Triple-A and even made five starts for Detroit before the season was over.
After posting a 3.45 ERA in 23 Minor League starts in 2010, Oliver looked like he would figure in the Tigers' immediate rotation plans. Then he went 8-12 with a 4.71 ERA for the Mud Hens in 2011 and made only two starts at the Major League level. Last season, he shuttled between the Toledo rotation and bullpen, ending up 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA before Pittsburgh acquired him in December.
Oliver said he's enjoyed his new organization and the early impression he's made.
"I feel good about myself, the way I've gone about these first four starts," he added. "It's something to build off of and keep working on. Feel pretty good about it.
"I'm just staying focused and not letting an at-bat ruin an inning, being able to get back on line mechanically and being able to fix [a problem] right away rather than let a couple batters get away from me. I'm comfortable in knowing how to correct."
While the Pirates appear to offer a clearer path to a regular Major League gig, Oliver isn't dwelling on it.
"That's not one of my focuses. For me, it's just about taking the same mentality every start out there," he said. "Doesn't matter where I'm pitching, I'm gonna be keeping the same routine and let the other stuff take care of itself. If I'm able to be consistent, there'll be an opportunity."
Oliver helped himself Friday night, picking up an RBI with a fielder's choice in the fifth. Darren Ford went 2-for-5 with a walk out of the leadoff spot.
Daniel Corcino fell to 0-3 for Louisville after allowing two runs on four hits and six walks over three-plus innings. The Reds' No. 4 prospect struck out three.