It's not just that Dylan Unsworth isn't walking anybody. He isn't even coming close.
The Mariners prospect from Durban, South Africa, allowed two hits over five innings Friday night to lead Class A Clinton to a 6-0 blanking of Burlington.
Unsworth did not walk a batter and has gone nearly six weeks and 42 1/3 innings since issuing a free pass. Against the Bees, he never even fell into a three-ball count. And that's been more or less the norm for Unsworth over his last six starts.
"I think he went three of those starts without getting into a three-ball count," Clinton pitching coach Andrew Lorraine said. "Even if he has, it's maybe been one or two per game. It's fun to watch."
Although he's made some adjustments to improve his effectiveness of late, the control is nothing new for Unsworth. In 2010, he walked just one batter in 50 1/3 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League. His walk rate "soared" to 1.48 per nine innings in 2011 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and 2.00 last year in the short-season Northwest League.
Thus far in 2013, he's given up two walks over 47 innings. And he's reduced his ERA to 2.25 because his command and approach have caught up with his ability to throw strikes.
"He's always been a guy who throws balls over the plate," Lorraine said. "He's learning to command it and put the ball where he wants to put it."
In particular, Unsworth has found success locating his fastball inside. His velocity has spiked this season and he runs his heater in the 87-89 mph range. While he's always felt like he could locate to both sides of the plate, he's choosing his spots more wisely, jamming unsuspecting hitters with inside fastballs when the situation dictates.
"With my 87, 88, 89 mph fastball, it looks a lot harder when I can come in," Unsworth said. "It could be in any count but mostly with two strikes. Hitters are maybe waiting for an off-speed pitch, then comes a two-seam inside, right on the hands, and you get a ground ball."
"He's obviously working on picking his spots," Lorraine added. "There will be guys who will take away some of that and he'll have to throw off the plate. The thing is, he doesn't miss a beat when he has to come back in."
Much of Unsworth's command comes from his advanced ability to repeat his delivery. He's slightly unconventional in his windup, taking a long stride toward first base as he begins. But Lorraine is impressed with how well he repeats the movement and returns to the same position on release.
"He has a little movement in his body, but he gets right to the same release point every time," the former Major League hurler said. "He has a little movement at the start of his delivery that can sometimes be a problem for guys, moving around on the rubber. But he gets his body back in position."
Unsworth has long had an effective changeup with deception and sink but has struggled with his curveball in the past. He's gained some confidence in the offering this season, throwing it with a little more authority as he's gotten more comfortable.
"My curve, in the past, I would say was just a 'get-me-over' pitch," Unsworth said. "Now I feel like I have confidence with it with two strikes. I can throw it and get a ground ball or a flyout or even go for a strikeout.
"Before, I had trouble throwing to the outside of the plate against left-handers for a strike. Before, I would throw it right in there and hitters would smash it. My command, it's definitely getting better with that."
The result of all that is that Unsworth is emerging as one of the Midwest League's best pitchers -- a story that's even better by his unique background and personality.
His only challenge hasn't come from opponents but from a pesky nerve in his forearm that resulted in his Monday start being pushed back four days. Unsworth described the flare-up as "nothing serious," adding that he was experiencing some weakness in his throwing hand because he had tried warming up without stretching the arm effectively.
The 20-year-old spent the week working with the LumberKings trainer to loosen the area and said he felt fine Friday night.
"I'm still young and I tend to just get warm and throw," he said. "The biggest thing is to get warm, stay healthy and loose. Working on that until the season finishes."
Guillermo Pimentel went 3-for-4 with an RBI single in Clinton's five-run third inning.