Taylor Guerrieri hadn't faced adversity in his first 20 professional starts between Class A short-season Hudson Valley in 2012 and Class A Bowling Green this year. Half of them had been scoreless affairs, and in the other half, he hadn't allowed more than three earned runs. It was about all the Rays could ask of their 2011 first-round pick.
The bump finally came June 2 when he allowed a career-high six runs on 11 hits in just four innings during an 8-6 loss to South Bend.
Would the rough start be a sign that Midwest League could have figured out the right-hander? Or would it be less indicative of his strong first full season?
Guerrieri took a strong step in the direction of the latter Sunday. The Rays' No. 2 prospect scattered three hits and two walks over six shutout innings in Bowling Green's 9-1 rout of Lake County.
"I wouldn't say I really worked on anything particular in between starts," said Guerrieri (4-2). "I just didn't get ahead of hitters early, and that hurt me. It wasn't a very good outing last time. … You just have to realize that you win some, you lose some in this business, and all you can do is get back out there and keep working toward the next start."
The 6-foot-3 right-hander retired the first five Captains he faced and didn't allow a hit until Eric Haase and Joseph Sever both singled to start the fourth inning.
"Fastball command was a big thing for me today," he said. "Getting ahead of guys is always something I focus on. I was able to do that early with the fastball today, which makes everything else so much easier. It was good to get a win."
Thanks to a solid two-seamer and sinker offerings, Guerrieri was able to force 13 groundouts -- along with two strikeouts and two flyouts -- in his six frames. That included an inning-ending double play in the third and a rally-stopping double play in the fourth.
The latest start was the 20-year-old's fifth scoreless outing of the season through 10 starts and dropped his ERA to 2.76. It also marked the third time in the last four games that he had tossed six innings, bumping his total innings up to 49.
After reaching 51 frames for Spring Valley (S.C.) High School in 2011 and 52 in the New York-Penn League, Guerrieri will soon move into uncharted territory, and he's eager for what's next, even if it means more bumps.
"I'm actually looking forward to getting deeper and deeper into the season," said MLB.com's No. 40 prospect. "I'm ready to see myself hit that 100-inning mark for the first time. That'll be a big deal for me. Hopefully, I can stay healthy. That's obviously the big thing. They have a really strict arm care program that they have us all on. There's no cheating. But one of the main things is staying in shape and putting yourself in a position to stay healthy. That's my goal."
Second baseman Thomas Coyle homered, doubled, scored three times and drove in two runs to lead the Hot Rods offense. Designated hitter Justin O'Conner homered, drove in two and walked twice.