Severino Gonzalez was turning in a strong season at Class A Advanced Clearwater out of the bullpen when the Phillies decided it was time to give him a go as a starter.
Now getting stretched out with Class A Lakewood, he's showing he might be even better suited in that role.
The 20-year-old tossed six perfect innings, striking out nine, as the BlueClaws two-hit Delmarva Shorebirds in a 1-0 shutout.
It was just the second start with Lakewood for Gonzalez (1-0), and he has yet to allow a run or issue a walk. In 10 innings, he's struck out 15 while yielding just two hits.
"He just moved his fastball inside and out, stayed down in the zone and worked both halves of the plate," said BlueClaws pitching coach Aaron Fultz. "Very aggressive, threw some curves for strikes early in counts, kept them off balance and just did a heck of a job."
The Panama native began his year in the Florida State League, where he excelled in the Threshers bullpen. In 27 1/3 innings, he registered a 1.65 ERA and struck out 33 while walking three.
It's not the first time Gonzalez has bounced between the 'pen and the rotation. In 2011, for Philly's Venezuelan Summer League team, he made 17 appearances in relief, earning one save and notching a 2.11 ERA in 42 2/3 frames.
The next season, again in the VSL, he went 7-3 with a 1.65 ERA in 14 starts, striking out 86 and walking just six in 92 2/3 innings. Fultz said he thought Gonzalez had the stuff to make a strong starting pitcher.
"The thing I like most is his confidence. Stuff-wise, it's good but it's not overpowering, but he has confidence in each pitch that he throws," he said. "He uses his fastball early and often. He has a curve that he can throw harder or slower, in the zone or out, which is impressive for his age. We're working on a change-up with him and a cutter that's doing pretty well right now.
"I don't know if he realized it or not, but in the fourth inning, he had a 3-0 count, got it to 3-2 and threw him a curveball with a perfect game going. He's got that kind of confidence."
Between the two levels, Gonzalez sports a 1.21 ERA with 48 strikeouts and only three walks in 37 1/3 innings. Fultz pointed to that exceptional command as one of the reasons he's optimistic about the right-hander.
"Obviously he's a strike thrower, still young but his upside is huge with the command he's shown. Coming out of nowhere to go there [to Clearwater] and come here and do as well as he has is impressive," he noted.
Fultz added that Gonzalez throws generally between 88-93 mph, sitting mostly around 90. As he stretches out, he'll be confined generally to a 60-pitch limit.
"After four innings, he only had about 45 pitches today. I was hoping for five and got six, so that was a very pleasant surprise," he said.
Designated hitter Willie Carmona's third-inning solo shot was the game's only run.