Although Scott Snodgress has added a slider to his repertoire, the Birmingham left-hander doesn't feel that the extra pitch has been the difference maker in his recent run of dominant starts.
Instead, the No. 12 Chicago White Sox prospect attributes the successful stretch to finally taking full advantage of his 6-foot-6 frame by staying as tall as possible during his delivery.
"When the ball is coming in at a downward angle, it is a lot harder to hit," Snodgress said.
That's certainly proved to be the case for Southern League hitters.
Snodgress has allowed just two runs over 35 1/3 innings in his past five starts, losing a no-hitter with one out in the ninth inning in one and pitching eight innings in two others.
The fifth-round choice by the White Sox in 2011 out of Stanford University had just 19 strikeouts in the five starts, but that certainly wasn't something he was fretting about.
Quite to the contrary.
"I couldn't care less about strikeouts," said Snodgress, who had a streak of 24 2/3 scoreless innings during the stretch. "If I can get a batter out in three pitches or less, all the better. The bottom line is winning and going deep into games."
The 23-year-old California native has done both.
Snodgress (11-7) was tied for the league lead in victories and ranked third with 124 innings pitched.
"I've learned how to use less pitches," said Snodgress, who's gone past 100 pitches in a game just once this season. "I'm a fan of being economical."
The emphasis on doing more with less came midway in his first full season in 2012, which Snodgress capped by going 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in eight starts after being promoted to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
But he ran into a rough stretch in June with Birmingham this season, losing four of five starts.
Snodgress wasn't taking full advantage of his height.
"I needed to stay tall and leverage my fastball," he said. "Being 6-foot-6 is a huge advantage."
With the mechanical change came better command. Better results followed.
Having four pitches instead of three was also a plus, of course. The slider complemented his curve and gave him pitches at four different speeds. At the top is a fastball that usually sits in the low 90s, but can reach the mid-90s. That's the pitch that Snodgress works off and the one that drew attention as he excelled as a reliever at Stanford.
The White Sox selected Snodgress with starting in mind, though. It's a role he has flourished in but one he doesn't want to be limited to.
"I love starting, but I'm flexible," said Snodgress, who has a 3.70 ERA. "I just want to get to the Major Leagues, no matter what role."
Meanwhile, he is enjoying being a part of a Birmingham team that has the best overall record in the Southern League and has been dominant at home while attracting league-best crowds to new Regions Field.
"It's been a lot of fun playing here," said Snodgress, who is 6-3 with a 2.77 ERA at home. "The support has been great and the crowds push you. It really gets your adrenaline going. It's just been an incredible experience."
Home sweet home: Continuing its second-half dominance at home, Jacksonville ran its winning streak to 10 with a 10-4 victory over Tennessee on Sunday. The Suns are 18-5 at home in the second half and lead the South Division of the Southern League by 3 ½ games over Mississippi after sweeping Chattanooga to start the homestand and taking the first three games with Tennessee. The winning streak is Jacksonville's longest since 2009.
Streaking: Mississippi second baseman Tommy La Stella's franchise-record 22-game hitting streak through the weekend wasn't the only impressive ongoing streak by a M-Braves player. Catcher Christian Bethancourt had reached base safely in 31 straight games -- seven off the team record. La Stella, Atlanta's No. 14 prospect, broke the hit record of 20 games set by Carl Loadenthal in 2007. Bethancourt, Atlanta's No. 3 prospect, was chasing Willie Cabrera's 2009 record of reaching base safely in 38 straight games.
Stopped at last: Birmingham left fielder Brandon Jacobs had at least one hit in his first 17 games after being acquired by the White Sox from Boston before finally having the streak stopped Sunday, when he was 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly against Pensacola. Jacobs, the White Sox's No. 8 prospect, was hitting .308 and had four doubles, two homers and 17 RBIs. He was acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for veteran reliever Matt Thornton.