A couple of months at extended spring training are paying off for Jake Thompson.
The Tigers' No. 8 prospect allowed one run on three hits recording a career-high 10 strikeouts over six innings Saturday night before Class A West Michigan dropped a 2-1 decision at Great Lakes.
The only run off Thompson in the longest outing of his brief career came in the bottom of the first when Robbie Garvey singled and stole second. Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 4 prospect who homered twice on Friday, followed with an RBI single, but Thompson fanned Jeremy Rathjen swinging to limit the damage.
"I had good command of both my breaking balls, and for the most part I put my fastball where I wanted," Thompson said.
The 2012 second-round pick, who struck out the side in the first and fifth, has fanned 23 and walked four over 18 2/3 innings this season. The key -- and the reason he spent extra time in Florida -- has been a newly developed curveball and a more consistent arm slot.
"Our pitching coordinator made me throw only a curveball in Spring Training and throughout extended spring for a while," Thompson said.
The 19-year-old right-hander, who also throws a slider and changeup, had 31 strikeouts over 28 1/3 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season to go with a 1.91 ERA and .149 opponents' batting average. His previous high for strikeouts was seven last July 17.
Thompson was shut down last season after reaching his innings limit, an issue that crept up again Saturday night. West Michigan manager Larry Parrish lifted his starter after 66 pitches -- about 20 fewer than his limit -- so he will not have to cut his innings short later this summer.
"It didn't bother me. I was kind of surprised, but I understand where he's coming from," Thompson said.
The Rockwall, Texas, native has faced the Loons in each of his last three starts. He allowed a run on two hits while fanning seven over five innings on June 12. Five days earlier, he surrendered six runs -- two earned -- on six hits in two innings.
"Obviously, there are some guys that there's a general plan for, who have a weakness in their swing, but mostly you just try to keep them off-balance," Thompson said. "You can't have any patterns."
Garvey opened the ninth with a single to chase Whitecaps reliever Josh Turley. He moved up on a sacrifice by Leo Rodriguez and scored the winning run on Midwest League All-Star Tyler Ogle's double.
"It's really exciting," Ogle said. "We all love walk-off wins. I think that is my first walk-off in a long time. ... You know, I dream about that all the time. As a baseball player, you don't want anything other than to be up in the bottom of the ninth. For me to see a good pitch and to hit it well, you know it is really a dream come true."
Geoff Brown (4-1) earned the win with three strikeouts in two perfect frames.
Turley (5-3) was charged with a run on one hit in two-plus innings.