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McCray extends Barons' string of zeros
White Sox prospect goes seven in Birmingham's latest shutout
07/19/2013 11:52 PM ET
Stephen McCray has a 3.56 ERA in 19 starts for Birmingham.
Stephen McCray has a 3.56 ERA in 19 starts for Birmingham. (Birmingham Barons)

Double-A Birmingham handled Chattanooga pretty easily Thursday night, limiting the Lookouts to four hits in a 4-0 win.

Stephen McCray went out Friday night and ensured a repeat performance.

The White Sox prospect actually one-upped Spencer Arroyo by allowing one hit over seven innings as the Barons blanked the Lookouts again, 1-0.

"You know, it's great. It's always fun to pitch in a so-called pitchers' duel," McCray said. "Always fun to do that, every inning going out, knowing you have to put up another zero. It's just a fun atmosphere and it's a very good level of competition."

One night after Arroyo gave up four hits over seven innings, McCray (9-6) struck out four and did not walk a batter as he lowered his ERA to 3.56. He's been at his best in July, posting a 1.09 ERA and 25 strikeouts against five walks over 24 2/3 innings. In June, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 6.95 ERA in five outings.

"The main thing earlier in the season is I wasn't attacking the hitters. I wasn't trying to generate as much contact," McCray said. "I'm confident I can make them hit the ball now early in the count, and the guys behind me do a great job. So I'm just trying to attack hitters as much as possible.

"It's always good to string some starts together, get that confidence level going. I was shaky in June and it's just a good feeling, where you know you can go out and see the results of the work you've been putting it, the different things you worked on that are making you successful."

The 2010 16th-round pick out of the University of Tennessee has made a steady climb through the White Sox system. He went 6-2 with a 2.48 in his debut with Rookie-level Great Falls before repeating the Pioneer League in 2011.

Last year, he began his ascent in earnest, notching a 3.18 ERA, 105 strikeouts and 46 walks over 133 innings between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.

Through those three years, though, he's always split his time pretty evenly between starting and working out of the bullpen. This season is his first as a full-time starter.

"I've always enjoyed starting a little more than the bullpen. The bullpen is fun 'cause you get the adrenaline rush, you don't know when you're going to get called, but I do like the routine, being a creature of habit," McCray said. "Knowing every fifth day you're getting the ball, being able to put your work in four days and then go out is nice."

Overall, McCray has 62 strikeouts and 37 walks over 101 innings and shares the Southern League lead with nine wins.

McCray pitched from the lead almost from the outset Friday as White Sox No. 2 prospect Trayce Thompson delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the first on his way to a 2-for-4 night.

Rehabbing White Sox slugger Paul Konerko went 0-for-4 after going 1-for-2 with a walk and an RBI on Thursday.

"[Konerko] is a great guy, great clubhouse guy, everything you ever heard about him," McCray said. "I've grown up watching him play, always known who he is -- he's a household name -- and it's good having him around. You can see why he has the reputation he has around baseball."

Salvador Sanchez followed McCray and struck out two in a perfect eighth before Dan Remenowsky fanned one in a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the season.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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