Most any pitcher will talk about how crucial it is to have complete command of his fastball. Obviously, it's the most commonly used offering, especially for a young pitcher, and if it isn't there on a given night, it's hard to get much else going.
Adam Conley's start on Saturday night illustrated just how important command can be.
The Marlins' No. 7 prospect allowed one hit, did not walk a batter and struck out five over six shutout innings Saturday night as Double-A Jacksonville beat visiting Pensacola, 7-2.
The effort proved a stark turnaround from his previous two starts, when he surrendered 12 runs -- 11 earned -- on 15 hits and five walks in eight innings. The only difference, according to Conley, was he had control of his fastball against the Blue Wahoos.
"I've had a few struggles in my past couple starts and ultimately that's due to not having the fastball command," he said. "You need to have it in this league to have success."
The 2011 second-round Draft pick compared Saturday's outing to his first start of the season, when he limited Jackson to one hit over five scoreless frames while striking out eight.
"I think my first outing I probably felt a little better physically, but I think as far as fastball command goes, it's pretty even, tonight and my first start. Ultimately, that's the kind of command with my fastball that I'm working on, and everything -- my changeup, slider -- are going to build off my fastball," he explained. "When it's there, the secondary pitches will follow."
The left-hander, who turns 23 later this month, climbed the Marlins' prospect rankings after a strong first season as a pro in 2012. Conley went 7-3 with a 2.78 ERA and struck out 84 batters in 74 1/3 frames for Class A Greensboro before making a midseason jump to Class A Advanced Jupiter.
In all, he finished 11-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 127 innings, striking out 135 and walking 43. This season, Conley is 2-1 with a 4.78 ERA and 30 strikeouts against eight walks over 32 innings through seven starts.
His promotion to the Southern League has provided him with some trials early on, but his outing Saturday showed an ability to work through the rough patches.
"It's just trying to go back to the basics and fundamentals," Conley said. "If I get rotational, it's harder to find the release point, and I think it was there tonight. The ball was coming out pretty good and, again, being able to change speeds, being able to throw secondary pitches for strikes, that came from being able to pitch the fastball to both sides of the plate."
Saturday also was a big night for Miami's top offensive prospects. No. 2 prospect Christian Yelich reached safely four times, going 2-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs out of the leadoff spot, bringing his average to .342.
Third-ranked prospect Jake Marisnick contributed his first Southern League homer, a solo shot in the fifth inning. He also walked and drove in two runs, while No. 13 prospect Noah Perio was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
"One of the amazing things about this club is we'll find unselfish ways to win, every game we get a chance," Conley said. "It's good for Jake to get his first of the year, Yelich has been hot; with all these guys hitting, it's easy for me to pitch confidently."