When asked about Dominic Leone, High Desert Mavericks manager Jim Horner and pitching coach Lance Painter talk about the reliever's lack of fear.
When asked about his increase in velocity -- he topped out at 97 mph in a save against Lake Elsinore on July 1 -- Leone and his coaches talk about improvements in his mechanics.
"I keep a consistent approach," said Leone, the Mariners' 16th-round pick in 2012. "If you do that, the strikes will come and you'll keep the ball down. I keep my motion fluid and my arm is getting on top."
In Spring Training, Leone's upper range was generally 90-92 mph. He now ranges 94-97 mph and has earned a save in six straight scoreless appearances since June 16.
Leone started the season with Class A Clinton in the Midwest League. He didn't allow an earned run in 6 1/3 innings, and the Mariners promoted him to High Desert, where he has 11 saves and a 2.72 ERA.
During his last 10 outings, he has a 1.59 ERA and has yielded seven hits and one walk in 11 2/3 innings.
"In Spring Training, I was excited to see where I was going," said Leone, who was a co-captain in his junior season at Clemson. "It's been a blessing to be here."
Leone, who is from Norwich, Conn., said he decided to go to Clemson because he thought the campus was beautiful and the program felt like a family atmosphere. During his time there, the Tigers went to the College World Series in 2010 and made the NCAA playoffs the next two years.
Horner credits Leone's success to improvements in his mechanics, saying his cutter is considerably better.
"He gets up from 93 to 98, but he adds what he needs to add," said Horner. "Nothing fazes him."
Painter noted Leone's steady improvement over the course of the season.
"When he first got here, his fastball wasn't as fast, his slider wasn't as sharp and his cutter wasn't as tight," said Painter, who pitched with four teams during his 10-year Major League career. "He has a compact delivery. The changeup is his fourth pitch, and he will need that as he moves up to Double-A and Triple-A."
Crick stifles Ports again: Kyle Crick, the San Francisco Giants' No. 1 prospect, had another outstanding start against the Stockton Ports. After recording 10 strikeouts over four innings in Stockton on June 21, Crick threw five shutout frames in a home start against the Ports on June 27, striking out eight while scattering three hits and a walk. Crick, who missed two months due to injury, has allowed one earned run in five appearances. He will play for the U.S. squad in the upcoming Futures Game.
Butler does it: Modesto righty Eddie Butler, MLB.com's No. 9 Colorado Rockies prospect, hasn't missed a beat since being promoted from Class A Asheville, where he went 5-1 with a 1.66 ERA in nine starts. The right-hander from Radford University, a supplemental 2012 first-round pick (No. 46 overall), has tossed five scoreless innings in his last two starts to lower his California League ERA to 2.45.
Hedges returns: Injuries limited Lake Elsinore catcher Austin Hedges to only two games in May, but the Padres' No. 4 prospect has made an impressive return, batting .321 in June. The 20-year-old Hedges, a second-round selection by San Diego in 2011, ranks fourth among MLB.com catching prospects and No. 64 overall.
Movin' up roundup: 1B Angel Villalona was promoted from the San Jose Giants to the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels of the Eastern League. Villalona, who signed with San Francisco at the age of 16, had 14 home runs and 42 RBIs in 73 games with San Jose. He struck out 76 times and had a .229 batting average. Villalona, 22, was a highly regarded prospect in the Giants' system before legal problems in the Dominican Republic caused him to miss two seasons. ... Villalona's teammate, RHP Cody Hall, was also promoted to Richmond. Hall had 48 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings for San Jose. ... The Los Angeles Dodgers promoted OF Jon Garcia from the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. Garcia had 17 home runs and 44 RBIs for the Quakes, batting .287 with a .337 on-base percentage. ... Mike Morin of Inland Empire was promoted to Double-A Arkansas by the Los Angeles Angels. Morin started the season as a set-up man for the 66ers but moved to the closer role and had 13 saves, striking out 43 while walking only five in 39 innings. The Houston Astros elevated Preston Tucker from the Lancaster JetHawks to the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. Tucker hit 15 home runs, had 74 RBIs and had a .326 batting average.