A groin injury is never a good thing. But Anthony Ferrara has found some positives after sitting out more than two weeks.
The Cardinals prospect made some mechanical changes and discovered a boost in confidence that helped him strike out nine over seven innings of one-hit ball on Saturday night as Double-A Springfield beat Arkansas, 4-0.
Ferrara (6-4) retired the last 17 batters he faced and recorded his first win since suffering the injury on July 11. He returned to the mound last Sunday and had difficulty adjusting to changes in his delivery, walking seven batters and giving up three runs over 3 1/3 innings. But he believes he's sorted out the hiccups.
"Last time out, I was working on getting comfortable with my new mechanics," he said. "I was maybe rushing into stuff, too. My pitching coach, Randy Niemann, helped me a lot this week, working on simplifying things, and it worked."
Ferrara threw 57 of 91 pitches for strikes, but his outing did not get off to an ideal start. Having posted a 5.48 ERA over five starts against the Travelers prior to Saturday, he came into the game with a plan.
"They have a lot of good bats in their lineup, high picks and stuff. They've hit me pretty decent. I haven't put together a full outing against them," he said. "I was aware of how they can hurt you real bad and I knew in order to go deep into the game, I was going to have to get ahead in counts."
The 23-year-old left-hander fell behind the first two hitters, with leadoff man and Angels No. 5 prospect Randal Grichuk flying to the wall in left field.
"Honestly, I thought it was a home run. I don't know if it was the wind that held it in or he didn't get all of it or what," Ferrara said, "but right when it left the bat, I thought it was gone. That's not really how I wanted to start the game."
Things weren't looking much brighter against Taylor Lindsey, who's ranked just ahead of Grichuk.
"[After] I went 3-0 to the first guy, and then I threw two balls to the next guy and one of them almost hit him in the face," said Ferrara, who retired Lindsey on a grounder to second.
Ferrara's early troubles culminated in the second inning when Angels top prospect Kaleb Cowart took three straight balls before lining a 3-1 pitch into left for a single.
"To Cowart, I just got behind. Those guys, they're a real good team, real good hitters," Ferrara said. "You can't do that with them. They will take advantage."
After that, however, the 2008 seventh-round Draft pick was perfect through the seventh.
"My changeup was really good tonight. I usually never try to locate my changeup except down, and I was able to throw it down and away," said Ferrara, whose nine strikeouts matched a career high.
But there was more behind his outstanding performance than spotting his secondary pitches and feeling more comfortable with his new mechanics.
"I think it's about confidence, too," he said. "This week, [Casey] Rasmus caught my bullpen [session]. He usually doesn't do that. He was telling me to trust in my stuff and go after guys. He also told me to slow down and take it easy -- I don't mean slow my delivery down but slow my head down.
"I know I can do it, it's in there. I just need to trust in my stuff."
Kevin Thomas and Lee Stoppleman each pitched an inning as Springfield set down the final 23 Travelers en route to its 10th shutout of the season.
Cardinals No. 10 prospect Stephen Piscotty doubled home a run in the fourth and Luis Mateo delivered a two-run double in the sixth.