Giants right-hander Kendry Flores had an off night with his command Tuesday and he still only walked one batter. That's the type of pitcher Flores is.
San Francisco's No. 20 prospect took a few innings to gain full control of his low-90s fastball, but still collected nine strikeouts over six scoreless frames for Class A Advanced San Jose en route to a 4-2 win over Inland Empire. The 22-year-old allowed just three hits in the victory.
"He got started a little slow," San Jose manager Lenn Sakata said. "His location was a little up, but he had enough fastball to get through the first four innings, then he seemed to finish strong."
The start was the second notable performance in three outings this season for Flores. In his first outing against Rancho Cucamonga, the right-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, allowing his first hit on James Baldwin's bunt single.
Through three outings, Flores boasts a 1-1 record and a 3.00 ERA. Over 18 innings, he's struck out 18 and walked three. Last year, he led the Minor Leagues with an 8.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio with Class A Augusta.
Flores failed to drive his 90- to 93-mph fastball down in the strike zone early on in Tuesday's game. He allowed a double to Cal Towey in the first inning and a single to Jose Rondon in the third, but evaded more damage because his fastball was quick enough to sneak by hitters the first two times through the order.
"His fastball's sneaky because of his delivery and the angle of his pitches," Sakata said. "When it's down in the strike zone, he has a little more on it. When it's up in the strike zone, it's tough to catch up to because it is kind of a rising pitch."
Flores' third time through the 66ers order, his fastball command improved. The native of the Dominican Republic began driving the pitch down in the zone. He retired the side in order in the fifth, then turned over the lineup in the sixth and struck out Towey and Brian Hernandez to wrap up the outing.
"He got better toward the end, which is nice to see," Sakata said. "It was a solid performance. The kid's got a lot of weapons to work with. His control was very good at the end of the game."
Control's been one of Flores' specialties as a Minor Leaguer. With Augusta last year, he walked just 17 batters over 141 2/3 innings. Sakata said the command is a credit both to Flores' confidence and mechanics.
"Trusting in your ability, that your pitches will not be hit hard or put in play hard, that makes him aggressive in the strike zone," Sakata said. "He goes after hitters. Mechanically, yes, that's also involved. That allows him to stay in the strike zone. Even though he was up today, it was still in the zone, and gradually he got lower and lower."
Beyond the command, Flores boasts three plus pitches, by Sakata's estimation, including a fastball, curve and changeup. MLB.com rated all three pitches as at least average.
"Getting all those pitches over, it's difficult to center on him when he's not in one area all the time," the skipper said. "The concern was when he was up all the time over the first three innings that he couldn't go through their lineup for a third time and get away with that, so the adjustment was key for him to get through the sixth inning. He got through it and got us a chance to win and got himself a nice 'W'."