If there is such a thing as an ideal experience with Tommy John surgery, Vincent Velasquez seems to be having it.
The Astros' No. 14 prospect tossed six innings of one-hit ball on Wednesday night, walking two and striking out five, as Class A Quad Cities blanked visiting Clinton, 1-0.
The 21-year-old right-hander has a 1.00 ERA over 18 innings in his last four appearances, striking out 24 batters and walking only three.
"My last few starts, I'm pretty much just not trying to give up a lot," he said. "I'm bearing down, trying to get outs as early as possible, get contact and not do too much. I'm focusing on using my pitches in the right sequence, and it's working."
Velasquez underwent surgery in September 2010 and missed about a year and a half, returning to the mound last June 18 for short-season Tri-City. It's essentially been smooth sailing -- all things considered -- since then.
The 2010 second-round pick went 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA over 45 2/3 innings in the second half of last season, striking out 51 and walking 17. This season, he's 6-3 with a 3.56 ERA and a Midwest League-leading 93 strikeouts -- against 25 walks -- in 81 innings.
In addition to healthy workload, Velasquez said he's benefited from some of the positive side effects of Tommy John surgery -- increased strength and velocity -- without experiencing any of the setbacks that can occur.
"I was actually looking forward [to going through it]," he said. "You hear all the stories of the surgery, how people come back and how they're capable of throwing harder, stronger and everything like that -- the side effects, I was looking forward to those. If I did the right things rehabbing, if I could keep that up and take it into my daily routine, I thought it would all be positive feedback.
"And it was good in Tri-City last year, in short-season, and I was looking forward to the long season this year. And my velocity has increased. I was sitting 92-93 mph before and maybe touching 96. This year, after a good offseason, I'm pretty much sitting 94-95 and touching 98. And as far as any tweaks or cramps or anything that I might feel, no, that's pretty much gone."
The California native said the strength of his arm and continued good health are the most important things in putting the surgery behind him once and for all.
"The health has been a key for me. I'm just trying to take it to heart and stay with [the rehab program] as much as I can," he added. "I know it'll play a huge role in the future, and the last thing I want is another injury. But I'm enjoying the ride."
Velasquez exited a scoreless tie as LumberKings counterpart Tyler Pike limited the River Bandits to three hits over six innings. But a throwing error and a balk in the bottom of the seventh helped produce the game's only run.
Astros No. 2 prospect Carlos Correa led the Quad Cities offense, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk to raise his average to .327.