When he finds himself in trouble, Brewers right-hander Taylor Jungmann doesn't have much trouble selecting a jam-busting pitch.
"When I'm down in the count or I need a pitch, my go-to is my sinker," Milwaukee's No. 2 prospect said.
With runners on first and second and nobody out in the first inning of his Arizona Fall League debut Monday, the Surprise hurler went to his low-90 mph sinker. The results were exactly as the 23-year-old envisioned, he got a pair of key strikeouts and evaded the jam en route to three scoreless innings in the Saguaros' 3-2 eventual loss to the Salt River Rafters.
Jungmann encountered the man-on situation by conceding a leadoff walk to Kenny Wilson and then issuing a pass to Ryan Brett.
He then struck out Jake Lamb and Kyle Parker on a combined six pitches, starting both at-bats with perfectly placed arm-side sinkers that were called strikes. After that, he retired both batters with offspeed pitches, getting Lamb with a changeup and a slider and Parker with consecutive breaking balls.
"I just try to get ahead with that [sinker]," he said. "Once I got ahead, I was able to use some offspeed. I was in the zone.
"It's a little easier when you stay in the zone. 0-2 is easier than 1-1 or 1-0, those counts. Getting ahead was big."
Jungmann retired Tim Wheeler to escape the first unscathed. He sailed smoothly from there, allowing just one more hit while striking out four in his three scoreless frames.
"I think the most important thing here is getting used to the strike zone and being consistent in the strike zone," Jungmann said. "Guys here are obviously more aggressive, so you have to mix in all three pitches or whatever you have.
"Just talking to guys, pitchers and pitching coaches or whoever, it's kind of known that guys here are a little more free swingers. They like to attack because they're seeing so many different pitchers, and they might not know what you have, so they won't want to go as deep in the count."
The Brewers sent their first-round pick (12th overall) from the 2011 Draft to Arizona after Jungmann found mixed results with Double-A Huntsville in 2013. The final numbers weren't stellar -- a 4.33 ERA and an 82-to-73 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 26 starts and 139 1/3 innings.
Those numbers don't quite tell the entire story. What really plagued the 23-year-old was a tough start and a tough ending. During a 12-start stretch from May 9 through July 12, Jungmann posted a 2.25 ERA. His strikeout and walk numbers were similar during that time (42 punchouts, 32 walks), but he limited opponents to just five home runs and 5.9 hits-per-nine innings. For the season, opponents notched 7.56 hits-per-nine innings off the right-hander.
"The streak where I threw really well, I was just in the zone with all my pitches," he said. "I was able to get ahead in counts. When it started going bad at the end, I was in a little mechanical funk. When I get in funks like that, it's hard to get out of them. I fixed a few things, and hopefully, I can build off that."
The University of Texas product said learning how to adjust when his mechanics become faulty is one area where he hopes to improve.
"In college, I didn't get into too many of those funks," Jungmann said. "I didn't experience too many of those, so that's definitely been an adjustment. Just being consistent and bouncing back out of those, having one bad start and getting back with a good start next is huge. That's something I still struggle with and am still working on."
For Salt River, Cardinals No. 7 prospect Stephen Piscotty went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base, lifting his AFL average to .333 after a 1-for-11 start to the season.
"I hadn't seen live pitching in about three weeks or so," he told MLB.com. "I felt a little bit late getting my foot down last week. [I needed to] stick with my mechanics and slow the game down and get a good pitch to hit. It was more of a timing thing."