Corey Black has advanced quickly in the roughly 11 months since he began his professional career in the Yankees system.
That presents a tough set of challenges, which the Yankees prospect has battled since the beginning of the season for Class A Advanced Tampa. But after treading water through the first six weeks of the season, the right-hander's results might be starting to match his potential.
Black (2-6) went five innings without allowing a hit Thursday to earn his first win since his opening start. He yielded a run while walking four and striking out seven to lead Tampa to a 5-4 win over Daytona.
In his last two starts, the right-hander has held opponents to two earned runs while fanning 11 over 11 innings.
"I, of course, wanted to go more. But in the fifth inning, I threw like 39 pitches, walked three guys in a row... but overall, it felt great," Black said. "I was really happy about just being down in the zone, cause this is a hitters' ballpark in Daytona. It's small, wind's blowing out, so the focus was on being down in the zone. I think I only had three or four flyouts, couple popups."
The 21-year-old San Diego native was taken in the fourth round of last year's Draft by New York and made just one start for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees before his first promotion.
He then made six starts for short-season Staten Island before moving to Class A Charleston. And he only had five outings with the RiverDogs to end the year before the Yankees felt he was ready to attack the Florida State League.
The overall debut was impressive, with Black posting a 3.08 ERA while striking out 50 and walking 15 in 52 2/3 innings.
The success was less instant this year as he reeled off a streak of six straight starts from April 21 to May 19 in which he took the loss, before his last two starts brought his ERA down 0.67 runs to 4.22. In 53 1/3 innings overall, he's struck out 63 and walked 24.
"We've been working on mechanically just trying to get everything consistent," he said. "There will be games where there's only one or two pitches that are working, and for me to throw well I need to have all those pitches to mix in."
Black said he has four offerings -- a fastball, a slider, a curve and a changeup. The fastball can run anywhere from 93-97 mph, but generally sits at 95. He added that he tries to use each of his three offspeed pitches equally.
One reason for the early struggles was adjusting to a relatively new style of pitching. He's drastically reduced his reliance on his fastball since leaving the college ranks.
"I think I've definitely come a long way [as a pitcher]," he said. "In college, I was throwing about 90 percent fastballs in games and getting ground ball after ground ball after ground ball. Once I got to Staten Island, I figured out I have to throw the offspeed stuff for strikes and keep them off balance. That's been my biggest focus."
Shortstop Carmen Angelini delivered a two-run homer in the first to lead Tampa offensively.
Top Cubs prospect Javier Baez hit his eighth homer of the year for Daytona.