Garrett Gould is making his second trip through the California League this season. And after some mixed results last year, it looked like the hitter-friendly circuit hadn't gotten any easier for him this time around.
In his last few outings, however, that's beginning to change.
On Friday night, the Dodgers prospect struck out eight over six scoreless innings for the second time in his last three trips to the mound. He gave up two hits and a walk as Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga lost to visiting San Jose, 5-3.
The 21-year-old right-hander has a 1.52 ERA over 17 2/3 innings in the last three starts, striking out 21 batters while walking only three. It's dropped his ERA by more than four runs to 6.27.
"I think the biggest thing that's been in the last couple of outings, really, is I've been trusting my stuff, not shying away from hitters, trusting my fastball," Gould said. "When I locate it, it's a great pitch, and I'm learning to trust that and let them put the ball in play."
The 2009 second-round pick works around 90 mph with his fastball and said his curveball is primarily his out pitch. One big difference between his recent run and how he started the year, Gould said, is that when he uses the curve a little less and relies on his fastball, the curve retains its effectiveness throughout the game.
Where he was throwing around 18-20 curveballs a game to start the season, he only used it about 10 times Friday, Gould said.
"I've been learning to get people out without have to show it too much. Everything works off your fastball, so if I can throw the curve the least amount as possible, it always helps when I really need it," he said.
Last year with the Quakes, Gould went 5-10 with a 5.75 ERA over 130 innings. That was a stark contrast to his 2011 season, when he was 11-6 with a 2.40 ERA in 123 2/3 innings for Class A Great Lakes in the Midwest League.
Still, his peripheral numbers haven't changed all that much in the past three seasons. He averaged 7.57 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011, 8.52 a year ago and 7.96 this year, while his walks-per-nine have gone from 2.69 to 3.73 to 2.65.
Gould served up 19 homers in the Cal League last year, up from the eight he yielded with Great Lakes. Getting those groundouts and keeping the ball low is a key he has focused on in his second stint with Rancho Cucamonga, he said.
"It's all fastball location -- you keep it down, you get a lot of groundballs, even if you're playing in places like High Desert or Lancaster where the ball just carries. Keep it down and you'll get a lot of outs," Gould added. "It kind of sets the tone for the whole game when you throw that first heater where you want it."
Gould exited with a 2-0 lead, but Angel Villalona homered in the seventh and Ryan Cavan hit a grand slam in the eighth to send San Jose on the way to its 11th straight road win.
Jon Garcia and Ryan Mount went yard for the Quakes.