Danny Salazar has started slowly since his mid-May promotion to Columbus, posting a 1-1 record and 4.81 ERA in his first six starts.
But Salazar knows all about slow starts -- and how to overcome them.
The 23-year-old didn't pitch above Class A Advanced for the first five years of his career, partly because he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. So when the right-hander started this season 2-3 with a 2.67 ERA for Double-A Akron and earned a promotion to the Clippers, he naturally was pumped.
"I have played [professionally] for six years, but this was my first time in Triple-A," Salazar said. "I was waiting for this call and I was pretty excited.
"This is my second year on the 40-man roster, so this is a big year for me. Now I'm a little bit closer to the Major Leagues."
Salazar was coming off a breakthrough season in which he posted a 2.68 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Advanced Carolina and a 1.85 ERA in six starts for the Aeros.
"Mentally, I know how to pitch more," he said. "When I was younger, I was just throwing the ball. Now I think a little bit about how I'm going to attack guys.
"If you face a good hitter but know how to pitch, you can keep them from making good contact against you. Sometimes hitters will hit the ball hard, but if you make good pitches you can get hitters out."
Columbus skipper Chris Tremie also managed Salazar last season in Akron.
"He has a good, live arm," Tremie said. "His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he has a good breaking ball and changeup. He's really come a long way with his composure and his ability to repeat his pitches. He's an exciting young pitcher to watch."
Last year, Salazar's fastball gained some life, sitting in the 94-97 mph range. As a result, the native of the Dominican Republic has put more effort into refining his slider.
"In Spring Training, I started working on it," he said. "I think I'm getting better and I think I'm starting to get it. I'm also feeling better when I throw it because I use it more."
Tremie said he doesn't worry that Salazar is one of the younger players in the International League.
"Danny's a mature kid," the manager added. "Even though he's just 22, he's not a 22-year-old in the way he conducts himself, and that's a real positive sign.
"Along with some really good stuff, he's got a very bright future."
While earning the promotion to Columbus was exciting, Salazar breaks into an even bigger grin when asked how he will feel when he gets the call to the Major Leagues.
"That's going to be a big moment," he said. "But I'm still waiting for that -- and that's not my decision. I'm just trying to do a good job here. I want to pitch well here first."
Pastornicky picks it: Gwinnett 2B Tyler Pastornicky got off to a great start this season, hitting .351 in April. After slowing down and batting .258 in May, he's seen his average rise with another hot stretch. Pastornicky has hit .370 in his first 13 games in June, lifting his season's mark from .298 to .316. Overall, he has three homers, 23 RBIs and 34 runs scored in 55 games.
Streaky: Syracuse OF Eury Perez had an eight-game hitting streak end with an 0-for-4 night against Toledo on June 15. But that wasn't the speedy outfielder's longest streak in the IL. Perez hit in 23 consecutive games, starting last August and carrying into this season. He also had a 14-game run from April 30-May 27 and put together hits in 27 consecutive road games, a streak that ended May 31. For the season, Perez is batting .318 in 44 games.
He said it: "It's about being versatile, unless you're a prospect and they have a spot for you. Otherwise, you have to be versatile to get on the field. Wherever [manager] Marty [Brown] puts me, I want to go out and do the best that I can. It's different because I've played a lot of second base lately, but I'll get the feel for [third base] again. I need to get it, but I certainly don't feel uncomfortable there." -- Bisons IF Jim Negrych to the Buffalo News after moving from second base to third. He's third in the IL with a .341 batting average, and the switch could get him a promotion to Toronto.
He said it, part II: "The team started coming alive late. All of a sudden, we looked at each other and knew we had a chance to win this. That was a lot of fun. It was the first walk-off hit of my career, I believe. I don't even think I had one in high school." -- Red Wings OF Dan Rohlfing to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on June 15. His two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning capped a five-run rally that gave the Wings a 6-5 win over Gwinnett.