In some ways, first-rounder Braden Shipley is doing things a little backward. But now that his 2014 season debut is behind him, the initial impression he left his coaches with was that he will have no problem moving forward.
Shipley (1-0) gave up five hits and a walk while striking out four batters over five innings to earn his first professional win as the Class A South Bend Silver Hawks beat the Quad Cities River Bandits, 5-0, on Thursday.
"It felt great to be back up here," said Shipley, who was kept in extended spring training after experiencing bicep tendinitis last month. "It was pretty cool to get my first official professional win. It was a little different because I got a win in the [2013 Midwest League playoffs], but technically that's not counted because it's in the postseason. It was a little backwards, but I'm going to enjoy this win and hopefully I'll get a lot more.
"The arm felt great tonight and even my last outing in Spring Training it felt good too. I didn't have any problems with it tonight and I haven't had any other problems with it since I injured it."
Arizona's No. 2 prospect gave up an extra-base hit in three of five innings and he worked with runners on base in every frame except the fourth.
He stranded a runner at second base in the first and two in scoring position in the second. Catcher Michael Perez threw out would-be base stealer Brett Phillips in the third and left fielder Chuck Taylor teamed up with shortstop Andrew Velazquez to throw out Austin Elkins at home in the fifth as he tried to score from first base on Chan Moon's double.
"I had great defense behind me," Shipley said. "My shortstop told me that he loves playing behind me. Guys were making plays in the infield and we were playing fundamental defense all night.
"Looking back at last year, there were a couple times where I could not get out of those jams. Maybe I hyped myself up too much or was thinking about it too much. Tonight I just stayed really calm the whole time no matter what happened. I just told myself 'one pitch at a time.'"
Ranked 75th among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, Shipley went 0-3 with a 4.99 ERA in 12 starts between short-season Hillsborough and the Silver Hawks. Manager Mark Haley gave Shipley the ball twice in last year's Midwest League playoffs -- including in the Championship Series against Quad Cities -- and said he is pleased with the improvements the 22-year-old has made since last fall.
"It was real nice to watch his first outing," Haley said. "He commanded his fastball and had good feel for his other pitches. He had a change working and a nice curve -- what we call a power curve -- but what I was most pleased with was spotting up the fastball inside and opening up the other part of the plate."
Shipley came out after 74 pitches, his limit was 75, and Haley said he will remain at that limit "for a little bit until word comes from up top" that he can be stretched out.
Selected by the D-backs 15th overall in June's Draft out of the University of Nevada, Shipley's sophomore campaign was pushed back two weeks after he told coaches in spring camp that he felt a pinch in his throwing shoulder after his second outing.
"It was one of those freak deals," he said. "I had never experienced it before and it freaked me out a little bit. But I worked through it and got stronger. Now I'm able to perform how I want to. It scared me more than anything."
Shipley used a number of corrective exercises to take the stress off his shoulder and he improved his posture, which has had a positive effect on his mechanics.
He didn't pitch for the first four days after reporting the injury and then started throwing every third day -- first from 60 feet, then 75 and finally 90. When he was able to throw on consecutive days on flat ground, he progressed to bullpen sessions.
"I had a little thing where I would sometimes lay too far back when I pitched and it would cause the ball to be up a little bit instead of me driving through it," Shipley said. "Now I have everything working the way it should, I can stay really strong throughout the delivery and I can get through the back side and pound down in the zone."
Haley described Shipley as an athlete and a worker, praising some of the aspects of his game that often go overlooked, such as his ability to contain the running game and get off the mound to field his position.
"His ceiling is endless right now. He needs to sharpen up some of his secondary stuff, but he can hit the bottom half of the zone and elevate effectively. He is on the right path. He reminds me of ... Jarrod Parker, someone who has that competitive drive and who can drive a baseball as well as spin it."