Kyle Helisek pitched well enough to earn the win in his Florida State League debut on Tuesday night, but he was content with the process even if the result didn't go his way.
The Cardinals prospect allowed one hit over six scoreless innings and retired the final 14 batters he faced, but Class A Advanced Palm Beach fell at Bradenton, 4-3.
"It was a good first outing and I felt good out there," Helisek said. "I was just trying to get comfortable, but it was a tough way to end the game.
"I want to throw strikes and limit my walks, and tonight gives me something to work on. I need to throw the ball over the plate and that all comes from working ahead in the count and starting 0-1 instead of 1-0."
Helisek, who threw 41 of 67 pitches for strikes and rolled seven ground balls in facing two batters over the minimum, retired the Marauders in order in five of his six innings.
The only time he was forced to pitch out of the stretch came in the second inning. Pirates No. 6 prospect Josh Bell led off with a triple to right field and Max Moroff drew a one-out walk and stole second base to put two runners in scoring position. But Helisek induced a ground ball off the bat of Jordan Steranka and got Walker Gourley to pop up to end the threat.
"It was the first pitch of the inning and I was just trying to throw a strike," he said of Bell's triple. "He got a good piece of it and there's nothing you can do about that. I wasn't upset about it.
"It was big [to get out of the inning] because we had just scored in the previous half-inning, so it was important to throw up a zero and keep them off the board."
Helisek said the competitor in him hoped to come out for the seventh inning, but he understood that he was working under a 70-pitch limit. He expects to be stretched out a little more next time out when the Cardinals host the Marauders in their home opener on April 14.
The left-hander, who turns 24 on April 23, did not factor in the decision after Steranka hit a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning and Raul Fortunato plated Gourley two batters later to give the Marauders a walk-off win.
Tuesday's outing marks the fourth time Helisek has pitched at least six innings and not allowed a run. On July 18, 2012, he tossed six perfect frames for short-season Batavia, the only other game in which he permitted fewer baserunners.
"There were similarities," said Helisek, who throws a high-80s fastball, a low-80s changeup, a curveball and a cutter. "This was probably my second-best start, but it's up there. In that game with Batavia, I also relied on my fastball a lot and had my defense making plays behind me.
"I'm trying to be more of a fastball pitcher now. In the past, I wasn't. In college, I was a different type of pitcher. Now I try to implement my off-speed pitches more when I'm ahead in the count."
The Pennsylvania native fell an inning short of matching the longest outing of his career, achieved six times last year for Class A Peoria and most recently on Aug. 24.
Selected by the Cardinals in the 30th round of the 2012 Draft out of Villanova University, Helisek went 7-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 23 Midwest League starts last season, his second in pro ball. He struck out 101 batters over 129 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .258 average.