Exactly one year after Miami acquired him from Detroit in a package for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, 23-year-old Brian Flynn is looking like a worthy acquisition.
The 6-foot-7 left-hander made a few tweaks to his delivery after the trade and has become a breakout performer since. That trend continued Tuesday as Flynn scattered three hits and a walk while striking out nine over 7 2/3 scoreless frames for Triple-A New Orleans in a 1-0 loss to Iowa.
The Marlins' No. 16 prospect lowered his ERA to 3.36 for the season. The hurler has struck out 98 hitters in 99 innings while walking 32 and allowing six home runs in 17 Pacific Coast League starts. The strikeouts are fourth-best on the circuit, while the ERA ranks fifth for one of the league's youngest starting pitchers.
Flynn was acquired by Miami on July 23, 2012, along with Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly. Right-hander Turner was considered the key piece at the time of the trade. He has already reached Miami and has a 2.44 ERA in nine starts in the Majors. Catcher Brantly also plays for the parent club and has a .590 OPS in 186 at-bats this season.
Flynn, meanwhile, began the season in Double-A Jacksonville. After striking out nine in six scoreless frames on Opening Day, he told MiLB.com he believed he'd jumped his biggest hurdle to a Major League career -- figuring out how to mechanically manage his massive frame.
"Not to jinx myself, but this is really, since the start of the [Arizona] Fall League and this spring, my mechanics are as good as they've been," Flynn said April 4. "I'd have to say, in my own words, I think I've turned a corner. My mechanics aren't even in my head anymore."
No jinxes here. The left-hander was excellent in four starts with Jacksonville, compiling a 1.57 ERA and a 25-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio before being promoted to New Orleans. The jump reunited him with Zephyrs pitching coach Charlie Corbell, who worked with Flynn at the Arizona Fall League and was heavily influential in Flynn's mechanical mastery.
Things have gone increasingly well for Flynn in the PCL since the promotion. In four July starts, the hurler has a 1.65 ERA and a 24-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 1/3 innings. He hasn't allowed a home run since June 7.
The mechanical corrections that were made last fall -- "getting over my front leg and exploding downhill," Flynn said -- have given him a formidable fastball-breaking ball combination he's confident in. His biggest task now is continuing to mix in his changeup, a pitch that has lagged behind his other offerings mostly due to command issues.
Flynn had gotten away from the changeup of late, but intentionally brought it back into his arsenal Tuesday, knowing it's one he'll need to be effective at the Major League level. He estimated he threw the pitch eight to 10 times Tuesday, a much higher average than he'd managed at any point in his career.
"It's basically just all about the command," Flynn said. "The movement and speed are working the way I want them to. That's never been a huge issue. It's more about not wasting them and keeping the same arm speed so hitters see it as a fastball.
"I got away from it for a few starts, so that was a real point of emphasis, getting that going. That's one of the big things as a starter is you need an effective changeup. I used it tonight, used it in big counts, and that's a process I've been working on with Charlie."
For Iowa, Guillermo Moscoso also struck out nine hitters while allowing one hit and three walks over five innings, needing 100 pitches to do so. After allowing home runs in eight consecutive starts from June 1 to July 7, Moscoso has gone three consecutive starts without conceding a long ball.
The Cubs won the game on Edwin Maysonet's walk-off single.