One look at Matthew Summers' three-game stint at Double-A New Britain at the end of June and you might think he'd prefer to forget the experience. Three games, seven innings, seven runs -- six earned -- on 11 hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Not exactly the numbers one would expect to instill much confidence in a pitcher.
Summers had a different view.
"That whole experience was great, I had a lot of fun there," he said. "I know I had a couple of outings that didn't look good and I know the numbers don't necessarily look great on paper. But I don't feel like I was hit hard at all, and the only thing I took away was how much I wanted to get back.
"I feel like I have plenty of ability to do well up there and my focus now is working to get back. It's one step closer to reaching my dream."
That dream was delayed slightly when the Twins returned Summers to Class A Advanced Fort Myers in to provide much-needed depth to the Miracle's starting rotation. The way he pitched Sunday afternoon, it might not be long before he takes that next step again.
On the mound for his first Florida State League start since his June 20, the 23-year-old right-hander tossed a two-hitter and struck out seven in his second career complete-game shutout as Fort Myers blanked St. Lucie, 3-0.
The nine-inning outing was his longest of the season, besting a seven-inning performance on April 27 against Charlotte. He also tossed a three-hit shutout for Class A Beloit on June 26, 2012.
"All I wanted to do was establish the fastball early and mainly keep it down," Summers said after throwing 106 pitches. "I've had a lot of early five- , six-inning starts where I've thrown too many pitches. So I was trying to avoid as many three-ball counts as I could and I was able to get some quick outs, which helped."
Taking the mound with a 3-0 lead, the Cal-Irvine product gave up a first-inning single to Jayce Boyd. But the Mets didn't get another hit until Dustin Lawley led off the seventh with a single. Sporting a fastball that hovered around 92-93 mph with a much-improved slider, Summers retired 14 batters in a row.
The right-hander knew he had a shot at a shutout following a perfect eighth and acted accordingly after returning to the dugout.
"I didn't really care what he was going to say, I wasn't coming out of that game," he joked, referring to Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz. "I didn't even bother to look at him, actually, when I came back into the dugout. I just wanted to stay prepared and focused to get the last three outs."
A perfect ninth achieved just that.
"For me, personally, I've kinda had a decent season," said the Arizona native, who dropped his ERA to 3.20. "There have been some up and downs, obviously, but I hadn't really had that long outing. So I really wanted to get it out of the way because I knew I was capable of it. Now the trick is moving this forward and building off it."
The key might be his slider. After struggling with the pitch while dropping four of his first five decisions, Summers talked to Fort Myers pitching coach Ivan Arteaga and Twins pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen about possible changes. Their suggestion seemed unorthodox at first.
"They told me to just throw it from my elbow to my fingertips," Summers said. "I know it doesn't make sense, really, but that thinking works for me. All of a sudden, the slider was there and I wasn't thinking about how to throw it so much. It was just slider, OK, and it would fall into place. ... It's less slurvy now, a lot sharper and it's got a little more velocity. It's definitely more of a weapon."
With an improved breaking pitch and a nine-inning shutout in tow, Summers seems back on the trail to New Britain, where he could be another step to his dream.
"I feel really good right now," he said. "Obviously, I have to try to not get too overwhelmed and staying within what I can do, but I definitely have more confidence now than I have had this season, between the Double-A stuff and today. I feel like I'm as confident as I should have been all along."
Mets No. 10 prospect Michael Fulmer gave up all three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out five over five innings in his Florida State League debut.